If someone doesn’t have legal status everyday events can be frightening. Even more frightening often is interaction with law enforcement. What if you are a victim of a crime? Should you report the crime? Some common questions are, if I call the police, will I be questioned about my legal status? Will I be arrested myself? Will I be deported? These are all very legitimate questions and may prevent someone from reporting a crime. Usually, if you are a victim of a crime, you will not be questioned regarding your legal status, you will not be arrested and you will not be deported. You should always report a crime.

What is the U visa? Immigration has created a visa for victims of crimes so that they will be more willing to cooperate with law enforcement and the prosecution of crimes. The visa is called the “U" visa. No one ever wants to be a victim, however, if you are a victim you have a right to apply for this visa. To qualify for the visa, you must have suffered one of the crimes below, report the crime and cooperate with law enforcement and the prosecutor to bring the perpetrator to justice. You also have to prove that you have suffered physical or mental abuse, this may proven in the form of police reports, doctors reports or psychologist reports. Law enforcement or prosecutor also has to sign a form stating that you have been helpful in the case.

What crimes qualify for a U visa? The U visa is specifically for victims of violent crimes: rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation; being held hostage; peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping; abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes. If you or someone you know has been a victim of any of these crimes, they may qualify for the U visa.

Who can apply? It doesn’t matter if the victim entered with a visa or not or even if the perpetrator is legal or illegal in the United States. The crime has to have been committed in the United States but you can apply even if the crime happened years ago. You can apply if immigration is attempting to deport you and you are now in removal proceedings or even if you have already been deported and are still here in the United States or are outside of the United States. The U visa allows for temporary legal status for the victim with work authorization.

Can Family Members Receive a Visa too? Yes, the U visa applicant can file a petition on behalf of the following family members: (1) if the victim is less than 21 years old, they can file for their parents, spouse, children, and unmarried siblings who are under 18; or (2) if the victim is 21 years old or older, they can file for their spouse and their children under 21. After three years of good behavior while in the US with the U visa, you can apply for legal permanent residence.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of any of the crimes you may qualify for the U visa and you should seek legal assistance to obtain it.

Scott Poston is a practicing immigration attorney with offices in Utah. You can contact him at scott@rodriguezposton.com or scottpostonpc@gmail.com

This article is not providing legal advice on your specific case and does not create an attorney-client relationship with Scott Poston.