Help for Immigrant Victims of Crime

Help for Immigrant Victims of Crime


We take great pride in helping immigrant crime victims and their family members get back on their feet.  Our primary goal is to secure their visa status so they can focus on their personal wellbeing.

Dark Cloud, Silver Lining 

Few things are scarier than witnessing or being the victim of a serious crime, like domestic abuse, rape, assault, kidnapping, forced prostitution, human trafficking or terrorism.  These people often feel scared, isolated, helpless and violated, like their human dignity has been stolen.  When the victim is also a stranger to this country, the experience is even more terrifying.

Some immigrants may not contact the police because they don’t speak English well, or their culture require them to keep the matter private.  Others fear the police will report them to immigration authorities.  Yet others don’t trust the police because they come from countries where the authorities regularly commit serious human rights abuses.  All these factors make immigrant crime victims and witnesses feel especially vulnerable.

The good news is that US immigration law provides several benefits and protections to immigrant crime victims and witnesses.

VAWA Protections for Victims of Domestic Abuse

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), valuable immigration benefits are available to certain foreign-born persons who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their US Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse or adult son or daughter.  These benefits are also available to people whose children have been abused by the children’s US Citizen or Permanent Resident parent.

Individuals may apply for VAWA benefits even if they are in deportation proceedings.  If approved, the applicant often obtains or may apply for permanent residence (a “Green Card”).  In many cases, VAWA benefits are also available for persons who entered the country illegally.

DID YOU KNOW?  Although it’s called the Violence Against Women Act, men are eligible for these benefits as well.  If you have been abused by your US Citizen or Permanent Resident husband, wife, or adult child, contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney right away to explore your options.

U Visas for Cooperating Crime Victims

A foreign-born crime victim may also be eligible for a non-immigrant (“temporary”) visa called a U visa.  The U visa is available to certain persons who have suffered substantial harm from criminal activities and who agree to help law enforcement prosecute those cases.  To qualify, the victim must obtain a special certification from a law enforcement agency.  Although U visas are temporary, they can lead to permanent residence (a “Green Card”).

Only victims of certain criminal activities are eligible for U visas.  Some (but not all) of the qualifying crimes include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Rape
  • Felonious assault
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Prostitution
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Trafficking


DID YOU KNOW?  To qualify for a U visa, you do not need to be married to the abuser, and the abuser does not need to be a US citizen or Permanent Resident.  So some people who don’t qualify for VAWA benefits may be eligible for a U visa.  Ask a knowledgeable immigration attorney for information about whether you might qualify for a U visa.

T Visas for Trafficking Victims

Human trafficking is the modern-day equivalent of slavery.  Each year, it is estimated that between 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born persons are trafficked into the United States.  The United States tries to encourage victims of human trafficking to come forward by making available to them special temporary visas, called T visas.

The T visa is available to persons who are in the United States due to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of providing labor, services or sex work.  The applicant must show that he or she complied with any reasonable request from law enforcement to investigate or prosecute the acts of trafficking.  He or she must also show that “unusual and severe harm” would result if they were forced to leave the United States.

Common T visa cases involve young women brought to the United States for prostitution against their will.  However, victims of labor trafficking – like certain farm workers, sweatshop workers and domestic servants – may also qualify, even if they originally came to the United States voluntarily.  Many T visa holders eventually become eligible for permanent residence (a “Green Card”).

DID YOU KNOW?  Unlike the U visa, a law enforcement agency (“LEA”) certification is not necessary to qualify for a T visa.  However, it will greatly increase your chances of getting the T visa approved.  To explore this and other issues related to the T visa, contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

S Visas for Witnesses & Informants

Commonly known as the “snitch visa,” the S visa is for people who have reliable information relating to certain criminal activities, who are willing to share that information with the authorities or testify in court and whose presence is necessary for the investigation or prosecution.  A special S visa is available for terrorist informants who face danger for sharing their information and who qualify for certain cash rewards from the US State Department.

DID YOU KNOW?  The old S visa law was set to expire on September 13, 2001, just two days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  In response to those attacks, Congress wisely made S visas a permanent part of US immigration law.  To find out more about S visas, contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

In many cases, people who receive VAWA benefits or U, T or S visas may also obtain status for some of their family members.  Also, those who are ineligible for any of the above benefits may still qualify for asylum.

For more information about sponsoring family members, asylum, visas, deportation defense or consular/embassy assistance, visit these pages: