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What should a person do when they’ve been a victim of a violent crime in the US and they have no legal status?

It’s not unusual for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of a violent crime in the US to avoid reporting the incident to the police because they fear about the fact that they have no legal status. Unfortunately, the fact that sometimes victims lack a legal status that would protect their presence in the country, means that in many cases the authorities never become aware of these crimes. Many times the victim remains silent due to the fear that if they approach the police, this could lead to additional negative consequences to them, such as a possible deportation. However, this shouldn’t necessarily be the case.

In order to protect these victims who are in vulnerable situations, the United States Government offers those persons who have been victims of a violent crime or domestic abuse, the possibility of applying for a humanitarian visa: the so-called “U Visa”. The U visa is designed to protect victims of violent crimes or domestic abuse and gives them the possibility to regularize their immigration status. Through a petition to the authorities, the victims could obtain a protected status in which a work permit could be granted to them. Eventually, after the completion of the process, if successful, the victim could obtain full citizenship with all the benefits that such condition entails.

For the U Visa to be granted, the victim must collaborate with the police in the investigation and prosecution of the crime in order to allow the criminal to be eventually imprisoned. Consequently, the victim must go to court to testify -if it is so requested by the police or the prosecutor. In order to start a process to apply for a visa of this type, the victim needs to be able to prove two elements. First, the victim needs to prove that the person was the victim of a violent crime (ie: robbery with a firearm or knife) or domestic abuse. Second, prove that the victim collaborated with the police in the investigation of the crime.

Therefore, this visa requires that the victim had formally reported the violent crime to the police when it occurred. The victim is always entitled to request the police for a copy of the complaint he made to the police in which she or he has been a victim, and the police has an obligation to deliver such copy to him or her. A lawyer can help the victim to write a letter requesting the copy of the complaint, but the lawyer cannot make the request to the police directly, the victim must place the request himself. Then, the victim must prove that he collaborated with the police and for this, the police needs to write a letter recognizing that the victim collaborated with the police in the investigation of the reported crime. The decision whether to issue or not this letter is at the sole discretion of the police. If the police involved decides not to issue such letter, he cannot be forced to do so. Alternatively, in the event that a formal process has been initiated against the suspect and the suspect has been formally charged in court, there is also the possibility of requesting the letter to the prosecutor who has intervened in the case. But in cases where the suspect was not found or no formal charges were brought against him, there will be no intervention by a prosecutor. Therefore, in these cases the only possibility of obtaining proof of the victim's collaboration in the investigation of the crime would be for the police to grant the letter mentioned above. A specialist lawyer may accompany and advise the victim all the way from the moment of the visa application up to the moment when the victim eventually obtains the US citizenship.

If you know of a person who has no legal status or is in an irregular immigration situation and has been the victim of a violent crime or domestic abuse, regardless of the State in which he was domiciled in the US at the time he was the victim of such crime, suggest them to consult with a lawyer because he could have the possibility of regularizing his immigration status and eventually obtaining a US citizenship. To find out if you may qualify for a U visa, contact our office at 804.377.7247 to schedule an in-person or telephone consultation to discuss. Any attendant who answers the phone can schedule a mutually convenient date. We are available to serve clients from Monday through Friday. We charge $100 for a consultation of up to one hour, but we will credit that payment towards our professional honors if you hire us to help you.