Providing Legal Help For People Who Have Suffered
U.S. immigration law provides certain protections for victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and other serious crimes. Additionally, the government may confer immigration status and provide visa for crime victims or those who have knowledge of a crime and are willing to assist in the criminal investigation of that crime. At Becker & Lee LLP, we provide support, advocacy, and advice to clients who have been victimized in the United States. We can assist you to obtain a visa for crime victims if your case relates to any of the following:
U Visa for Crime Victims and U Nonimmigrant Status
Victims of certain crimes can apply for U nonimmigrant status and obtain work authorization for up to four years. Applicants for U status can also petition for some family members. A person with U visa status can usually apply for permanent residency after being in valid U status for three years. The U visa petition can be accompanied by an application that waives unlawful entry and other immigration violations.
To be eligible for a U visa, a person must prove that he or she has been a victim of certain crimes and, as a result, has suffered physical and/or mental hardship. Additionally, the applicant must be helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. In order to be eligible for the U visa, a government official (usually a police officer) must sign a U visa certification form, which must be filed along with the U visa petition.
At Becker & Lee LLP, we have successfully represented many U visa applicants. If you or a family member has been the victim of a crime, contact our U visa lawyers to learn if you may be eligible for immigration relief.
T Nonimmigrant Status
T Nonimmigrant status is a visa for crime victims in human trafficking. Eligible individuals include foreign nationals who were forced into labor or sex work while in the United States. In order to qualify, certain requirements must be met, including proof of the crime, and a willingness of the individual to help in the investigation/prosecution of the trafficker. Unlike the U visa, however, a T visa applicant does not need to get an officer to certify that his or her participation in an investigation is necessary.
S Nonimmigrant Status
A person who possesses reliable information regarding a crime (including a crime that has not yet been committed) may qualify for an S visa. Under S nonimmigrant visa for crime victims, the individual must be willing to share this information with law enforcement officials and/or testify in court, and show that his or her presence in the U.S. is necessary for the prosecution of the case.
Violence Against Women Act
Spouses who have been abused physically or mentally by a current or former husband or wife may qualify for permanent residency in the United States. Learn more about options for domestic violence victims through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Contact Us For Assistance
If you need a visa for crime victims, contact our law firm in Oakland, California. Our attorneys can help you understand how these immigration options may apply to you and your family.
What Is the Provisional I-601A Waiver?
With a few exceptions, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses, parents and children under 21) who entered the U.S. without permission cannot become permanent residents based on a petition filed by a U.S. citizen immediate family member without leaving the United States. This is the penalty U.S. immigration law places on individuals who entered the U.S. without permission.
However, when such individuals leave the U.S. to apply for an immigrant visa abroad (based on a petition filed by their U.S. citizen family member), they trigger inadmissibility bars based on their unlawful presence. For those who have been unlawfully present for at least six months, leaving the U.S. subjects them to a “three-year (unlawful presence) bar.” For those who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for at least one year or more, leaving the U.S. subjects them to a “10-year bar.”
Once either bar is triggered, the person cannot legally return to the U.S. for either three or 10 years unless s/he successfully applies for an “extreme hardship” waiver. This requires a showing that the applicant’s U.S. citizen parent or spouse would suffer extreme hardship if the applicant were not allowed to return to the U.S. Previously, applicants could only file the I-601 extreme hardship waiver after leaving the U.S., attending their immigrant visa interview, and being denied the immigrant visa for triggering an unlawful presence bar. This process often took many months, if not years. Worse, if the waiver was ultimately denied, the foreign national family member would be separated from his/her family members in the U.S. for either three or 10 years/Confronted with this risk, many people choose to remain undocumented in the U.S. and hope for immigration reform.
On March 2013 USCIS published regulations which implemented a new I-601A provisional waiver. The I-601A regulations did not change the law; they only changed when and where the waiver could be filed. By allowing applicants to file the waiver BEFORE leaving the U.S., they obtain a preapproval for the waiver before traveling back to their home countries to apply for their immigrant visas. Instead of being out of the U.S. for months or years waiting with such a high level of uncertainty, they can leave for a short time and return as a legal permanent resident to live with their U.S. citizen family members. These waivers are difficult to win and usually require a lot of work and documentation to be successful. Approval hinges on proving “extreme hardship” to certain qualifying family members.
How has the I-601A Provisional Waiver been expanded?
On July 29, 2016, USCIS announced a final rule expanding the existing provisional waiver process. The new rules will go into effect on August 29, 2016, and the updated I-601A application form will be posted on USCIS’ official website on the same date. Notably, the new regulations expand eligibility for the provisional waiver process to all individuals statutorily eligible for the unlawful presence waiver. Until now, only immediate relatives of U.S. citizens were eligible to seek such provisional waivers before departing the United States for the processing of their immigrant visas. The new regulations expand the provisional waiver in the following ways:
- Immigrant Visa Petitions: Previously, the immigrant visa petition had to be filed by an immediate relative. Now, all persons with an approved immigrant visa petition and available visa, regardless of visa category, will be eligible to participate in the provisional waiver program, if otherwise eligible.
- Additional qualifying relatives: Previously, an applicant was required to show extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. Now, an applicant can also show extreme hardship to an LPR spouse or parent.
- Other grounds of inadmissibility: applicants can apply for provisional waivers even if USCIS has a reason to believe that they may be subject to other grounds of inadmissibility. But the final rule retains the provision that provides for the automatic revocation of an approved provisional waiver application if the DOS consular officer ultimately determines that the applicant is ineligible for the immigrant visa based on other grounds of inadmissibility.
- Final orders of removal: individuals with final orders of removal, exclusion, or deportation are eligible for provisional waivers provided that they have already applied for, and USCIS has approved, an Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal, Form I-212.
- Reinstatement of removal: DHS must have actually reinstated a removal, deportation, or exclusion order in order for an individual who has returned to the United States unlawfully after removal to be ineligible for a provisional waiver on that basis.
While the regulations have greatly expanded the class of persons who can apply for the provisional waiver, it is important to note that the legal landscape of inadmissibility waivers is extremely complex, and many persons might still not be eligible under the new regulations. We strongly recommend setting up a consult with our experienced immigration attorneys to do a comprehensive analysis of all potential grounds of inadmissibility.
Contact the immigration attorneys of Becker & Lee LLP to learn more.