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    Federal DV Laws – The U – VISA

    Federal Law – Domestic Violence – False Allegations and Immigration – The U Visa

    In 2000, Congress passed legislation creating the U visa. It allows immigrants who allege mental or physical abuse and who cooperate with law enforcement officials to work legally and stay in the United States for up to four years while applying for permanent residence.

    “U visas.” see the actual federal law:

    The purpose of this visa is to give victims of domestic violence temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. An application for the U visa is filed with Form I-918. According to section 1.D. of Form I-918, “[a] Federal, State or local government official investigating or prosecuting a qualifying criminal activity [such as domestic violence] certifies . . . that you have been, you are being or you are likely to be helpful to the official in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal act of which you are a victim.” In other words, it is not enough for one spouse to simply accuse the other spouse of domestic violence; the complaining spouse must actually file a formal complaint with the prosecuting authorities in order to potentially qualify for a U visa.

    Only recently federal officials began allowing the visas en masse after sustained efforts from immigrant rights groups, particularly several based in Oakland and San Francisco. The pace of approvals has since cancer stepped up, as has the controversy, with both defense lawyers and groups opposed to immigration contending that the process invites scams.

    While victims of several specified crimes are eligible, at least three-fourths of the applicants for U visas to date, say they have suffered domestic violence.

    Congress approved an annual limit of 10,000 U visas. Yet the regulations that would put the law in force were not made final by the Department of Homeland Security until September 2007.

    A few dozen U visas were approved in 2008. Then the pace increased. In the fiscal year ending last September, immigration officials approved 5,825. Another 2,244 were approved in October and November. More than 10,000 applications are pending.

    Clearly Colorado criminal defense lawyers, such as H. Michael Steinberg, defending clients on the other side of the visa petitions are concerned that the incentives of a U visa are creating new wrongs as well as righting old ones.

    U visas create irresistible incentives for people to invent or exaggerate offenses.

    The U visa offers a wonderful opportunity when used appropriately, but it can be lopsided and misused. If a person wants to get rid of a spouse fighting for custody, or a rival gang member, these visas are very convenient, while the people on the other side can lose everything: their children, their jobs, their liberty and their right to stay here.”

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    H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
    A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
    Colorado Criminal Law For Over 40 Years.
    The Edward Building
    8400 East Prentice Ave, Penthouse 1500
    Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111
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