Victims of or witnesses to crime can struggle enormously with feelings of fear, trauma, isolation and shame. Being in this position can take an incredible toll on any person, particularly if the person committing the crimes is in your family. If you are also dealing with the anxiety and fear of being an immigrant in the United States without proper documentation, then every day can feel harder than the day before.
Thankfully, there are remedies for people in this very difficult situation, including a U visa, which is a visa reserved for people who help police investigate or prosecute a criminal. The visa makes it possible for victims of violence and witnesses to crimes to report wrongful conduct without the fear of being deported.
However, like other types of visas, U visas can be difficult to secure because of strict eligibility requirements. Applicants must be a victim of or witness to a qualifying criminal activity; he or she must have suffered abuse as a result of the activity; he or she must also be able and willing to help law enforcement investigate or prosecute the alleged criminal.
In addition to the challenges of eligibility, U visas can take years to secure. During this time, applicants can struggle to stay safe and support themselves while they wait for approval.
But make no mistake about it: U visas are critical lifelines for people in potentially dangerous situations. They can and do help people secure legal status in the U.S. and get on the path to citizenship.
Unfortunately, as this article by Slate points out, President's Trump aggressive push to deport immigrants has led to increased fear among victims of crimes regarding the possibility of removal. People who would be eligible for U visas are too scared to contact police, as they no longer feel protected by the U.S. government.
With all this in mind, we encourage anyone with questions about U visas or other means of adjusting citizenship status to consult an immigration attorney sooner, rather than later. With legal guidance, it is possible to avoid costly mistakes and pursue options for protecting yourself and your family.