By Michele Taylor, Immigration and Criminal Defense Attorney
Please help spread the word, U-Visas are for undocumented crime victims and their families. They allow the U-Visa holder to work and remain in the US for 4 years and also qualify immigrants to apply for permanent resident status. Undocumented folks are often targeted by criminals because they believe that without papers the victims will be too afraid to report the crime. It has been reported that many victims of the Orlando massacre were immigrants from Puerto Rico and some may be without documentation.
Although it takes a great deal of courage, reporting the crime and assisting in prosecution can mean that you can be granted a visa and permanent resident status. Your parents, children and spouse may also qualify. When you report crimes to authorities you help the whole community by helping to reduce crime. If the crime resulted in the death of a close family member surviving family members may also receive U-Visas.
You will usually have better results with an experienced immigration attorney at your side, particularly one with experience with the criminal justice system. The process requires law enforcement who is handling the criminal case to verify the crime and your help. Understanding of the role of law enforcement in the process varies greatly among different law enforcement agencies. Many undocumented crime victims report that their U-Visa applications are never processed by the police. If you decide to go it alone, you may print this document from the Department of Homeland Security that educates law enforcement about their duty in the process. Be prepared to find a way to exert pressure over the law enforcement agency. They are far more likely to just not process the form than to deny it outright. This is an important way that an attorney can make a big difference.
The document also lists most of crimes that apply. Please note that one of those crimes is peonage which is forcing people to provide free labor to pay off real or imagined debt. It also applies to survivors of domestic violence. Contact us if you have a question about whether or not you qualify.