The victims of certain crimes face so many challenges in getting back to “normal,” which can be even more difficult for an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. There may be hope, however, for some immigrants who offer their assistance to law enforcement officers in exchange for the opportunity to apply for legal immigration status through the U visa program. There are some limitations and the applicants for U visas must meet qualifying requirements. Under the U visa program, the qualifying family members of the applicant may in certain circumstances, also receive legal status.
Law enforcement investigating human trafficking, sex crimes and domestic violence frequently investigate crimes where victims, aggressors and witnesses may be undocumented immigrants. Knowing they are not lawfully present on U.S. soil, an immigrant is not likely to speak with or be anywhere near law enforcement personnel for fear they will be arrested and deported. The U visa program creates the special exception and opportunity for legal status, encouraging undocumented immigrants to work with law enforcement to solve crimes and prosecute offenders.
Attorney KiKi M. Mosley comments on the value of U Visas:
“I think that U visas offer an avenue for victims of certain crimes to have access to lawful status, where they would not otherwise under the current immigration law. Specifically, individuals brought in as young children who have suffered abuse or are victims of one or more of the qualifying crimes who otherwise have no other options may have a path to permanent residency and eventually citizenship. Sadly, perpetrators of some of the most violent crimes prey upon victims whom they know to be undocumented as they are terrified of encountering law enforcement and are therefore hesitant to file charges and/or pursue prosecution.” Attorney KiKi M. Mosley plays an active role in advocating for immigrants in need of legal relief for a variety of reasons. She also takes part in the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (“LAF”)’s DACA/U-Visa pro bono program.
Only 10,000 U visas are available every year and since the U visa program began in 2008, almost 90,000 U visas have been issued to qualifying applicants and their family members according to a recent report. The beneficiaries of the U visa program receive four years of legal status and an employment authorization. Legal status may be extended where necessary and permanent residency may be available for the beneficiary and their family members where appropriate.
U.S. Customs and Immigration Services lists U nonimmigrant visa eligibility on their website:
- You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
- You have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf (see glossary for definition of ‘next friend’).
- You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- You are admissible to the United States. If you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
The qualifications for U visas and the list of potential roadblocks can be challenging. Because the benefits are great, there is a concern for fraudulent applications, and a skilled immigration attorney is recommended to nonimmigrants seeking U visas in connection with their cooperation with law enforcement when they are victims of qualifying crimes. Attorneys advocate for applicants who are not otherwise able to navigate the complex system and processes required to obtain a U visa.
Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including applications for temporary immigration relief and adjustments of immigration status. For more information about the law firm, please visitwww.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.
 Global Nation, Inquirer.net, U visas available for out-of-status immigrants in US who are victims of certain crimes. By Mary Carmen Madrid-Crost, Apr. 9, 2014.
 USCIS website: Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status.