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Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes

29th March 2012
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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USCIS protects the victims of crimes by providing immigration relief. US law renders protections for lawful and undocumented immigrants who are victims of criminal offenses. Most victims do not know about such protections. Specific protections are offered for victims of domestic aggression and victims of certain other crimes such as human trafficking. The non-immigrant visa permits the victims to continue their stay in the US to help in the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers.

USCIS offers two kinds of visas for the victims of crimes, U and the T visas. These visas help the victims to live and work in the US, lawfully.

U visa
The U-Visa was created under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It was created to provide relief to the immigrants who are victims of certain crimes. The U non-immigrant visa provides immigration security to crime victims who have endured substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime. This visa is generally valid for 4 years. The applicant cannot directly become a permanent resident on getting the U visa.

Benefits of getting a U visa

By getting a U-visa, the crime victim will be allowed to stay and work in the US lawfully,for a period of 4 years. After getting the U visa, the victim is eligible to apply for a Green Card or adjust status after three years.

To qualify for a U visa, the victim must
- Have suffered serious mental or physical abuse is eligible for a U visa.
- Provide sufficient information about the crime.
- Show that the criminal activity has violated the US laws.
- Be co-operative in the investigation process.

Form I-918 must be filed with the USCIS, to apply for a U visa. This form must be certified by a local law enforcement authority or by a state or federal authority. This form will be certified only if the the victim of the crime is willing to cooperate with the officials to solve the crime. While applying for the U visa, a cover letter describing the physical or mental abuse suffered by the applicant. Personal identification documents such as copies of passport, birth certificates must accompany the form.

T visa
T non-immigrant visas are allotted for the victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is sort of modern slavery. Through that the individuals are lured with false promises related to employment. There are two types of trafficking, labor and sex trafficking. The poor and the unemployed are found to be the victims of human trafficking. These visas assist the victims of crime by granting temporary work authorization and legal status. Victims with a T visa can live and work in the US for four years. Through that they are given a chance recover from the injury of the crime. Once a T non-immigrant visa is given, the victim can apply for a Green Card after three years.

To get a T visa, the victim must
- Show that he/she is a victim of a severe form of trafficking.
- Be present physically in the US due to trafficking.
- Show that he/she will suffer hardship if removed from the US.

Form I-914, Application for T non-immigration status must be filed with the USCIS to apply for T Visa. Evidence showing the eligibility requirements for applying and a cover letter stating the the nature of trafficking must be submitted with the application. If the U or T visa applicant is below 21 years of age, the applicantís immediate relatives can apply for a U/T visa derivative status (Immediate relatives include parents, husband or wife, children, unmarried brother or sisters below the age of 18). If the applicant is over the age of 21, the applicantís husband or wife and children are eligible to apply for U/T visa derivative status.
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