The U visa is a temporary visa granted to victims of certain criminal activities which occurred in the United States, US territory or US military installation. It is granted to victims who suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the criminal activity and who, as a result of being at the receiving end of such an unfortunate circumstance, possess credible and reliable information about the criminal activity.
It is important that the victim is helpful, is being helpful or is likely to be helpful in the course of the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activity. In recent years, USCIS has granted 10,000 U visas yearly, which is the cap provided by Congress. It has done a lot in the prosecution of offenses, especially those committed against vulnerable undocumented immigrants.
Before this visa, undocumented immigrants were largely placed in very disadvantageous positions because they could not report the crime for fear of being deported due to their immigration status or lack thereof and they could not seek assistance from the authority for fear of being harmed even more by the perpetrators or abusers. Especially in domestic abuse or sexual abuse cases, the situation would persist because the perpetrator would use the lack of immigration status as a leverage to pin the victims down.
When this was created by Congress with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000, they listed the following qualifying crimes: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes which includes any similar activity where the elements of the crimes are substantially similar. It also includes the attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the aforesaid crimes.
Immigration services fraud is not specifically included in the list of qualifying criminal activities but it could potentially fit in the categories of witness tampering, obstruction of justice or perjury.
Recently, lawyers and immigration advocates have lobbied for the inclusion of immigration services fraud in the list. Immigration services fraud is the crime of taking advantage of one’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the US immigration law and promising to render services which are fraudulent, unauthorized or rendering nothing at all.
Immigration services fraud come in different forms. The popular one is notario fraud, which is claiming to provide immigration services, without actually being qualified to offer such assistance.
Another form of immigration services fraud is the visa lottery scam, which is promising immigrants that they will have a better chance of winning the visa lottery, or offering to enter them in the lottery if they pay a fee which are oftentimes exorbitant when in actuality, USCIS does not collect any fees to be entered into said lottery.
Recently, a company with a Las Vegas address has victimized many Filipinos in the Metropolitan New York area promising them quick green card for a fee of $15,000 each.
Evidently, these practices prey upon the most vulnerable sector of immigrants. In the hopes of one day legalizing their status here in the US, undocumented immigrants rely upon the promises of these services not knowing that they are being taken advantage of.
(Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For more information, log on to www.seguritan.com or call 212-695-5281.)