Being an immigrant means that you are legally and often financially vulnerable. If you lose your job and have a work-based visa, you might only have a few months to find a new job or risk removal from the country. If you secure a visa or green card because of a family relationship, you may feel dependent on that individual even if they treat you poorly.
All too often, immigrants who become victims of criminal activity think that they do not have any legal rights. However, there are laws that protect immigrants, even undocumented ones. There is also a specialty visa program that can help immigrants who become victims of crime.
The U visa program could help you
Not every criminal activity makes the victim eligible for a special visa. The U non-immigrant visa is only available to those who have suffered physical or mental abuse because of criminal activity.
Someone kidnapped, trafficked, stalked, assaulted, tortured, blackmailed or subject to domestic violence could potentially qualify for a U visa. Those who were forced to work against their will or who experienced sexual crimes can also qualify for a U visa even if the perpetrator of the crime is the reason they were able to legally enter or stay in the country.
There is a requirement beyond victim status to secure a U visa. Typically, you need to assist in the prosecution of the person who committed the qualifying crime against you.
Obtaining a U visa can be a complex process
The crimes that have affected you may not yet have resulted in an arrest or a criminal conviction. You may be in a scenario where you need to gather evidence of those crimes and bring them to the attention of the necessary authorities so that you can obtain a U visa. You will also need to submit to questioning and fill out paperwork.
If you are successful, a U visa can help you stay in the country as you recover from the criminal activity. Later, you may become eligible for a different kind of visa or even a green card. Learning more about less common visa programs can help you enter or stay in the United States despite your difficult personal circumstances.