S, T, U and VAWA Visas for Victims of Crimes or Abuse
Summary: S, T, U and VAWA are a class of visas falling under the general designation of victims of abuse or crime, and they are important paths to legal residence because they automatically waive many grounds of inadmissibility or removability.
Today I would like to discuss a class of visas that are granted to foreign nationals who were victims of crime or abuse. This is a sensitive and difficult topic. First and foremost, if you are the victim of abuse by anyone, whether a stranger or a family member, you should call the police right away. If you are afraid to talk to the police, then you should call an attorney who can assist you in seeking protection.
Let’s start with the T Visa, which stands for human trafficking. Let’s say that you’re a poor girl in a foreign country, and someone promises you a free trip to the United States with the possibility to make lots of money. You say yes, and before you know it, you’re put in a cargo container and shipped to Mexico. You barely survive the trip, at which point you’re handed over to a snakehead who takes your across the desert over the border with twenty other people. You get to the United States, but you are then kept against your will, abused, and your body is used to make money from illegal activities. Unfortunately, that happens to a lot of people. If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, you should call the police right away.
If you then assist in the investigation and prosecution of your captors, with the assistance of an attorney, then you may be eligible for a T visa. The theory behind this visa is that even though you may have entered illegally, or are present here illegally, the US government cares more about stopping organized crime, especially of such a tragic nature, and they are willing to give legal status to victims in exchange for catching and prosecuting their abusers.
The S and U visas operate in similar ways: the U visa is for victims of other crimes, such as felonious assault, some fraud, and a few other specific crimes, and the S visa is for informants, meaning that you didn’t have to be the victim, but you are aware of a serious criminal enterprise and you tip off law enforcement. The S, T and U Visas are great because after 3 years, victims can apply for a green card so long as there are no criminal issues, and you are not a Nazi. Also, many grounds of inadmissibility are automatically waived, which makes these visas very attractive.
So what do you need to apply for these visas? The most important thing in these applications is the certification by law enforcement that you assisted in the prosecution of the perpetrators. That is, law enforcement signs off on a particular form that says yes, this person signed an affidavit, or testified in court, or helped us with critical information that led to the prosecution of an individual. Once again I will remind you that you should always be represented by an attorney when you are talking to police, to ensure that what you say to the police is not used against you.
Lastly, let’s discuss VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act. its protections extend to both husbands or wives, not just wives. VAWA is for foreign nationals who are the victims of violence from their family members. Either a spouse is abusing another spouse, or a child is abusing a parent, or a parent is abusing a child under 21. The difference with VAWA is that you must show the relationship, spouses, or parent child, relationship, and the perpetrator of the abuse must be a USC or LPR. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical, and again, I have worked with husbands who were abused by wives. Usually the USC threatens deportation against the foreign national if they go to the police. VAWA ensures protection to individuals who are abused by their spouses regardless of their status in the US. Once again, if you are the victim of abuse by anyone, you should call the police regardless of your legal status, then call an attorney. This application usually requires a visit to a psychologist or social worker in order to analyze the relationship and to create a report that we can then attach to the VAWA application.
Lastly, like asylum, there is no filing fee for these applications.
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