The U Nonimmigrant status, also known as U visa, is designed to encourage immigrant community members to report crimes to law enforcement. Immigrants are often reluctant to report crimes to the authorities out of fear, this is particularly true for undocumented individuals.
The U visa allows qualifying applicants and, in some cases, some of their family members, to gain protection from deportation for a period of four years and eventually apply for a green card.
Basic U visa eligibility
In order to qualify, you must demonstrate the following:
- You were the victim of a qualifying criminal activity, regardless of when the crime happened,
- You suffered a significant physical or mental harm as a result of the criminal activity,
- You have information about the criminal activity and have never refused to assist law enforcement (typically the police or court) in the detection, investigation or prosecution of the crime,
- The crime took place in the United States and it violated the law,
- You have never violated the laws of the United States and are admissible. If you are admissible, you could ask for forgiveness
Crimes in the workplace
Not all crimes are qualifying crimes and covered by the U visa. These are mostly violent activities (felonious assault, sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact, sexual exploitation, and felonious assault, among others) which may take place anywhere, but there some that could happen specifically at the workplace, such as:
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting: The contractor knowingly recruits, solicits, or hires a person outside of the United States by using fraudulent pretenses regarding employment and to bring them into the country.
- Peonage (debt servitude), involuntary servitude, or human trafficking for labor: Involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, via the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
- Obstruction of justice, witness tampering, or perjury: When your employer refuses to help labor investigators, makes threats against workers or abuses them to avoid justice or further the abuse, exploitation, or as a form of retaliation.
- Extortion or blackmail: Threats of force, violence, or threats to report immigration status to law enforcement in order to obtain worker’s property
- Kidnapping or false imprisonment: Knowingly holding an employee against his or her will, forbidding them to leave the workplace by the use of force or threats.
To qualify for a U visa, applicants must show they are victims of at least one qualifying criminal activity. The crime must have happened in the United States and an applicant may pursue a crime regardless of when the crime happened. Despite there not being an expiration date on the criminal activity, certain law enforcement agencies may find it difficult to find records for very old cases.
How can I prove significant harm?
Significant physical or mental harm can be shown by providing police reports, medical records, pictures of injuries, psychological evaluations, and affidavits from the applicant and witnesses, as well as similar documents. The harm must be substantial and thus is always best to provide as much information and as many documents as possible.
How do I prove I helped in the investigation?
The main form of evidence needed for this process is the Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, better known as the U visa certification. This form must be completed by the law enforcement agency in charge of investigating or prosecuting the crime.
For most cases, these agencies are the police department or the criminal court system. Within the employment context, federal or state labor and employment agencies usually investigate these crimes, such as the Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board. The Attorney’s General Office or your state’s Attorney’s Office may also be involved.
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