Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced that the U.S. Department of Labor will begin exercising its authority to certify applications for U Nonimmigrant
Status Visas. U visas — as they are known — are designed to help
victims of qualifying criminal activities who have suffered substantial physical
or mental abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement or other government
officials in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes.
"Regardless 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," said Secretary Solis. "I have instructed Labor
Department investigators to identify potential U visa applicants as they conduct
workplace investigations. This action will help local law enforcement rescue
vulnerable immigrants from suffering and help put criminals behind bars."
Individuals who receive U visas may remain in the United States for up to four
years and may eventually apply for permanent residency. The U visa was created
by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. Qualifying
criminal activities involve violations of certain federal, state or local criminal
laws, including: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence,
extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault,
hostage-taking, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint and other related crimes.
Labor Department authority to certify U visas will be delegated to its Wage and Hour Division, which will identify potential applicants in appropriate
circumstances during the course of workplace investigations. Among other U
visa application requirements, a federal law enforcement agency or official
must certify that the U visa petitioner has been helpful, is being helpful
or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.