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U-visa: Protection for many undocumented immigrants

Kentucky and most other states in the nation are now home to many immigrants. Millions of people come to the United States from other countries in search of better lives. For some, business opportunities and investments draw their attention. Others, however, are actually running in fear, fleeing war-torn nations, abject poverty and imminent violence.

Sadly, not everyone who arrives in this state in hopes of building new, successful futures finds that the reality of their situations aligns with their dreams. Some, in fact, wind up facing further problems when they become victims of violent crime in their new surroundings. In 2000, the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act was created. Since then, the U-visa program has provided means for undocumented immigrants to seek protection from violent situations and people.

Eligibility requirements for a U-visa

So many undocumented immigrants live in fear of deportation. Many have been in the United States for years. Some have gone to school here, raised families and obtained gainful employment; yet, any time they hear a knock on their doors or seeing police lights flashing in traffic nearby, their anxiety levels soar, wondering if their legal statuses have something to do with a particular situation. This keeps many violent crime victims from seeking help. The following information may help alleviate such fears:

  • You do not have to be a documented immigrant to qualify for a U-visa.
  • Victims of violent crimes that result in physical or mental injury are typically eligible for obtaining U-visa support.
  • Authorities and officials are usually seeking the assistance that victims of violent crimes can provide in exchange for U-visa protection, such as information or evidence that aids an investigation.
  • The crime committed against an immigrant seeking U-visa protection must violate U.S. law.

A law enforcement agency must produce a certification of helpfulness to attest to your willingness to assist in the investigation or prosecution of a suspected criminal. Agencies able to issue such certification include the following: judges, child protection services and the Department of Labor. There are several other certifying bodies as well. The system provides protection for immigrants, regardless of legal status.

You do not have to be physically present in the United States to submit a U-visa application. It's important to note, however, that only 10,000 U-visas are issued each year, which means there is a tremendous applications backlog. The program is designed to help victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and other mental or physical abuse, while also aiding law enforcement and the courts in their investigation and prosecution efforts. An attorney experienced in immigration matters would be a great asset throughout the U-visa process.

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