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Austin Immigrants Should Understand the Purpose of a U visa

Woman helping law enforcementThis is the second post in our series on how undocumented residents may be able to stay in the United States with a U visa. Our last post served as a general overview of topics we will be discussing and stressed the need to call an attorney if you believe you may be eligible for a U visa. In this discussion we will look at the history of the program, how it simultaneously assists immigrants and law enforcement, and we will discuss the current backlog in applications.

The concept of a U visa was created in 2000 when Congress passed the “Victims of Violence and Trafficking Act.” The first goal of this legislation was to improve the ability of law enforcement to stop and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual related abuse, human trafficking, as well as other crimes. The second goal of the act was to offer protection to the victims of these crimes. While the act was passed in 2000, final regulations for the issuance of U visas were not published until 2007.

Austin immigrants may not apply for a U visa unless they have information about criminal activity and can assist law enforcement

As explained above, a U visa is issued with the goal of stopping crime while protecting the victims of such crime. To meet this goal, as we will discuss in a later article, such visas are only issued to those who have been the victim of a crime and are simultaneously able to help law enforcement in stopping the criminal activity. The visa, therefore, allows law enforcement and an undocumented person to “help each other.” Law enforcement, for obvious reasons, cannot stop criminal activity without relevant witnesses and it is recognized that there are situations where relevant witnesses cannot be in the U.S. without a visa. Issuance of a U visa, therefore, eliminates two problems at once.

It is important to understand that the law creating a U visa is written in a way which ensures both goals of the visa are met. Law enforcement, whose certification of the request is required to gain such a green card, has “discretion” to deny the attempt to gain the visa. This discretion may lead to instances where prosecutors are more concerned about pursuing one particular case over another and, as a result, choosing to certify one request for a U visa over another. Given that only 10,000 U visas are issued each year, out of roughly 26,000 requests, this type of “picking and choosing,” unfortunately, happens too often. This is why we strongly suggest that Austin residents seeking a U visa retain the assistance of an immigration lawyer so that they stand the best possible chance of having their application granted.

Austin immigrants waiting for a U visa may be eligible to gain a work permit

The fact that 26,000 applications are currently being filed for U visas each year has created a backlog in processing the requests. Due to the backlog, immigration authorities recently began issuing temporary work permits to those on the waiting list as long as they are applying from within the U.S. This means that, if you are in Austin and applying for a U visa, then you may be eligible to work while you are waiting for your application to be processed.

If you have been the victim of a violent crime and require immigration assistance then contact our Austin lawyers today.

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