Gaps in criminal law, as well as systemic discrimination against undocumented immigrants, often leads to serious, violent crimes going unreported by the victims. Immigrants, particularly those who come to the United States without documentation, may feel reticent to report crimes to law enforcement out of fear of deportation.
All too often, non-citizen residents of the United States experience violence and abuse from those who are legal citizens. Even if the individual who harms a non-citizen immigrant is not a U.S. citizen, there are still special protections in place for the victims of crimes here in the United States, as well as victims of crimes committed by citizens abroad.
Specifically, there is the "U" visa, a relatively new nonimmigrant visa created to protect the victims of crimes here in the United States. In some cases, U visas can also be an option for victims of crimes in other countries who will help with the prosecution of individuals involved in their victimization or trafficking.
What is the U visa?
In 2000, United States lawmakers decided to expand the domestic immigration program to offer protection to victims of crimes as part of an effort to improve prosecution of domestic violence offenses. From this desire, the U visa came into existence.
The idea behind this new visa was to create legal protections for the victims of crimes who are willing to work with domestic authorities in the United States to prosecute the person responsible.
The law is intentionally vague and inclusive. Crimes ranging from sexual assault or trafficking to battery, as well as domestic violence or attempted murder, can all qualify the victims of these crimes for a special U visa.
Unfortunately, many immigrants and non-citizen residents of the United States do not understand the legal protections offered by the U visa. Instead of seeking legal protections, they may avoid reporting a crime they experience out of fear that they will be the ones to suffer legal consequences, not the perpetrator of the crime.
Those hoping to secure a visa need help and advice
The United States immigration system is complex and difficult to navigate, especially for those who don't speak English as a first language. Individuals hoping to seek a visa of any sort will benefit from legal representation and advice.
Depending on your individual circumstances, there may be any number of potential visas that could help you move to or stay in the United States. If you are the victim of a crime committed in the United States or abroad by a citizen of the United States, you may have the right to apply for the U visa that protects you as a victim of the crime.