Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Parole for U Visa Holders and Family Members Residing Abroad

Good news to U visa petitioners and their relatives who are residing abroad.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has agreed to allow them to apply for a parole to facilitate their entry to the United States while waiting for their visa to become available.

This new policy of the USCIS was in response to the recommendations by the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, Maria Odom, regarding U visa petitioners on the waiting list, specifically those who are abroad. The Ombudsman said that such a parole policy would ensure timely family reunification for victims of certain crimes committed in the United States.

The Ombudsman also recommended that the said parole policy should allow the concurrent filing of the U visa petition and the request for parole. Finally, the Ombudsman recommended that U visa parole cases be adjudicated by the USCIS Vermont Service Center.

The Ombudsman had stressed that certain crime victims who are eligible for U visa and their qualifying family members, especially those residing abroad or who went back to their home countries had not received the full protection of the law. The U visa is capped at 10,000 annually and every fiscal year since 2009, it has been reached so certain U visa eligible individuals had to be placed on the waiting list.

U visa petitioners and their qualifying family members who are here in the US can receive deferred action and get work permits, but their counterparts abroad are not given the same due consideration. Those abroad have to go through the Humanitarian Affairs branch of the USCIS, and this bureaucratic process has not been effective in some cases.

The Ombudsman is hopeful that the new policy would translate to better cooperation from U visa holders in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activities for which they suffered substantial mental or physical abuse.

The U visa is a temporary visa that is valid for up to four years subject to extension based on certain conditions. Once given a U visa, the holder is allowed to work legally here in the US so that he/she will be able to support himself/herself while the case is ongoing. The U visa can also benefit certain qualifying family members like their spouses, parents, children and unmarried siblings below 18 years of age who may apply to come to the US and be reunited with them.

It is granted to victims of certain criminal activities which occurred in the United States, US territory or US military installation. Among the requisites to be granted said visa is the possession of vital information necessary to prosecute the crime and the victim’s cooperation with law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes.

Congress listed the following qualifying crimes for one to be eligible to obtain a U visa: 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, prostution, 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 Fraud and the U Visa

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, prostution, 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.

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