Immigrant victims of crime are often fearful of reporting what happened to them because they are afraid of being deported. As a result, they may fail to report the incident to law enforcement or seek needed medical attention. What you might not realize is that regardless of your immigration status, you may be eligible for legal immigrant status to help you avoid deportation.
If you or someone you care about is an undocumented immigrant who has been victimized by a crime, there may be options available to become a permanent resident.
Understanding the Violence Against Women Act
The passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by Congress in 1994 provided spouses and children of citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to apply for a green card without involving their abusers.
To be eligible for the legal status under this visa, the victim must prove that they have a live-in relationship with the abuser, there was actual abuse, and the victim is of good moral character.
Though the name of the Act has “woman” in its name, it is an equal opportunity law that also applies to men.
U Nonimmigrant Status
U Nonimmigrant status or U visa status requires cooperating with law enforcement to help prosecute the perpetrator. The U visa falls under the umbrella of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, and it applies to the following crimes:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Human trafficking
- False imprisonment
- Involuntary servitude
Other crimes may also qualify even if they’re not violent. Examples include witness tampering, perjury, blackmail, extortion, and several others. However, for the victim to be able to file for this visa, an actual crime must have been committed, and the victim must be able to provide reliable and credible information about the criminal acts.
The immigrant victim must further demonstrate that they suffered either physical or emotional abuse from the crime that was substantially harmful.
T Nonimmigrant Status also known as a T Visa
Slavery was outlawed in the United States in 1865, but several forms of modern slavery still exist today. T nonimmigrant status, also referred to as a T visa, is available for victims of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is equivalent to slavery because it involves the use of force and coercion to control victims and bend them to the perpetrator’s will. Typically, victims of human trafficking are forced into labor or sex acts.
Someone who is a victim of human trafficking could be eligible for T nonimmigrant status if their presence in the United States is a result of the trafficking, they are willing to cooperate with law enforcement, and leaving the U.S. would cause the suffering of extreme hardship.
Challenges in Helping Immigrant Victims
One of the biggest obstacles victims face is a lack of knowledge that any of these avenues are even available. Sometimes an attentive law enforcement official or compassionate healthcare worker can provide information and guidance in the process of applying for a green card or visa when they observe abuse.
Even with an advocate, there are still challenges, including the following:
- Applications are in English. If the victim does not speak or understand English, a translator can assist.
- You must provide evidence of the abuse. Concrete evidence can be challenging to obtain. Law enforcement officials can guide victims in this area.
- Other various legal issues. Every situation is unique, and there could be additional obstacles that need to be overcome before getting protection. An immigration attorney can help.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Law Attorney Today
At the Law Offices of James A. Welcome, our team is dedicated to helping immigrant victims of crime. We are understanding and compassionate attorneys, with conveniently located offices throughout Connecticut. Please contact us to request a consultation.