The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services accepts over 10,000 U visa applications every year. These visas protect immigrants who are victims of crimes and abuse. One critical part of the approval process is law enforcement certification. So, what are U visas, and what does law enforcement certification mean?
To understand the basics of U visas, you have to look at the two types of visa classifications: immigrant and nonimmigrant.
- Immigrant visas are permanent and may include lawful permanent residence status or a green card.
- Nonimmigrant visas are temporary, and they allow the recipient to stay in the U.S. for a limited period of time to fulfill the terms of their visa application.
U visas are in the nonimmigrant class, meaning they allow the recipient to stay in the U.S. for a limited amount of time.
While many visas offer different rights and privileges, U visas are the only ones created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. This law has been reauthorized by former Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump and contains specific protections for undocumented immigrants who are victims of heinous abuse and human trafficking.
- U Visas provide legal status to victims of a list of criminal activities and suffered severe physical and/or mental abuse as a result. Those who qualify for this visa may also have information regarding the crime and may be willing to share that information with law enforcement and government agents.
U Visa recipients may be victims of crimes other than human trafficking, like:
- Domestic violence
- Female genital mutilation
- Involuntary servitude
- Sexual assault and exploitation
- Slave trade
The USCIS also recognizes the intent to commit the above crimes as enough to qualify an immigrant for a U Visa. Both U visas are a powerful tool that can protect those who need them most, but applying for a visa isn’t easy.
Law Enforcement Certification
When you apply for a U visa, you will need to complete a series of forms and documents in addition to supplying evidence to support your case. The USCIS awards these visas to those who need them, and, as part of that process, they must investigate your claims to verify whether the information you provide is factual or falsified.
One of the most critical steps in the investigation is certification from law enforcement. This means that law enforcement was either involved in your case or reviewed it and deemed it eligible under USCIS guidelines. You cannot proceed with the visa process until you get law enforcement certification.
For U Visas, Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification must be signed by law enforcement to be approved. The official must also certify that you were helpful or are willing to be helpful in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
The law enforcement certification for a U Visa application typically includes the following information:
- A description of the criminal activity
- A statement that indicates the victim has information about the criminal activity
- Evidence that the victim was helpful is helpful or is likely to be helpful in the investigation
Law enforcement may also include information about any harm the victim experienced during the criminal activity. This is crucial evidence in your case that further emphasizes your need for protection under a U visa.
Which Agencies Can Provide Certification?
Certifying agencies for U visas may include the following:
- Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial agencies
- Child and Adult Protective Services
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Federal and State Departments of Labor
- Other federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government agencies that have criminal, civil, administrative, or investigative authority
Law enforcement certification is the first step in the U visa application process, and your case cannot proceed without one. Certifying whether an immigrant is “helpful” to an investigation is subjective, and law enforcement officers, judges, and other certifying agencies have no obligation to help you pursue a visa. In fact, under the Trump administration, law enforcement officers and officials were discouraged from certifying U visa applications.
Additionally, there is no official definition of what it means to be “helpful.” The USCIS published a law enforcement resource guide to help narrow the definition and promote certification, but ultimately, officers can still decide to choose not to issue a certification.
What Is “Helpful” Information
As mentioned previously, what constitutes helpful information is up for interpretation, but some facts can make or break a criminal investigation and help you qualify for a U visa.
Helpful information may include:
- Identification of criminals involved, including their names and addresses
- Participation in a lineup identification
- Information about possible whereabouts
- Descriptive details like physical attributes or descriptions of the crime
- Details that show a clear motive
- Evidence of the crime or resulting damage
- Testifying as a witness
It is also important to note that your helpfulness is not limited to whatever it takes to get certification from law enforcement – you will still need to provide information throughout the visa process and after you receive approval. In other words, you have to prove that you are willing to help with the investigation for as long as the investigators need you.
The USCIS also provides several resources to guide law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other applicable agencies. There are also specific guidelines agents must follow to certify a visa petition accurately.
If you have questions about your visa application or you need a legal review of a law enforcement certification, contact the legal team at Maghzi Law Firm, LLC.