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Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2023 | Immigration |

For many immigrants, coming to the United States is the fulfillment of a dream – but that dream can turn into a nightmare when they become the victims of crime.

Immigration policies and laws have provisions in place to protect some of the most vulnerable newcomers to this nation. For those who have suffered physical or emotional harm due to criminal activity, three primary options include the U Visa, T Visa and VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) protections.

U visas: For victims who cooperate with law enforcement

U Visas, also known as U Nonimmigrant Status, are designed to protect victims of certain crimes who have cooperated with law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes.

To be eligible for this status, you must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of a qualifying crime, such as sexual exploitation, kidnapping or involuntary servitude (among many others). You must also have information that is helpful to law enforcement in either the investigation or prosecution of that crime and be willing to cooperate with the authorities.

The U Visa was established by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to encourage crime victims to come forward without fear of deportation, ultimately making communities safer.

T visas: For victims of human trafficking

T Visas, or T Nonimmigrant Status, are reserved for victims of human trafficking who are brought into the United States against their will or coerced into exploitative situations. These visas aim to protect survivors of human trafficking by allowing them to remain in the country legally – regardless of how they got here.

T Visa holders are granted temporary legal status, work authorization and the possibility of applying for permanent residency after a set period, ensuring they can rebuild their lives free from the clutches of traffickers.

VAWA protections: For victims of domestic violence

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides protection for victims of domestic violence, abuse or battery perpetrated by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent or child. VAWA allows these victims to self-petition for immigration benefits independently of their abusive family members. (Despite its name, it’s important to remember that men can also be the victims of domestic violence, and VAWA applies to them, as well.)

All three of these programs are designed to give the victims of abuse and crimes an escape route so that their abusers cannot use someone’s immigration status as a tool for control. Learning more is the first step toward a better future. Therefore, it’s important to seek legal guidance whenever necessary.