Our New York Employment Immigration Attorneys are strong supporters of a recent immigration policy development which could prove to be a significant legal victory for abused workers by simultaneously granting them freedom from oppression and legal immigration status. Earlier this year, the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) stated it would certify applications for U visas (USCIS I-918) for certain victims in the workplace. Generally, victims of qualifying criminal activities (e.g., sexual assault, servitude, slave trade, trafficking, witness tampering, blackmail, abduction, domestic violence) who suffer substantial physical or mental abuse may apply for a U visa if they assist law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes. Moreover, if an employer threatens an employee not to cooperate with a government investigation, it could be considered witness tampering potentially qualifying an individual for U visa certification.
Eligible workers may file a USCIS Form I-918 to obtain a U visa. Prior to any filing, a law enforcement agency must approve that the worker was a victim of a crime and was cooperative in the investigation or prosecution against those suspected of committing the crime. If the application is successful, the workers can legally stay in the United States for up to four years with automatic work authorization. In addition, the U visa allows individuals to bring some of their family members into the U.S.
Hilda L. Solis, United States Department of Labor Secretary has stated that “[r]egardless of immigration status, no one should have to suffer criminal abuse silently. U visas give some measure of security to immigrant victims who are desperate to escape an abusive situation and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement.” The program has actually existed for 10 years but its application has increased significantly in recent years. In 2008, only 52 applications were approved but approximately 6,000 applications were approved in 2009.
If you or your family members have any questions about this important development, contact our New York Employment Immigration Attorneys who can guide you in these delicate matters. Call now to speak with one of our experienced attorneys – (800) 893-9645.
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