If a victim of a serious crime or human trafficking wants to apply for a visa, they must first obtain a certification from local law enforcement agencies to qualify for the visa, which is easier said than done in most cases. At Valverde Law we have found that some localities are more willing than others to sign these certifications. Sometimes getting a certification can take several months. Some localities refuse to sign the certifications completely.
This often places the ability of the victim to obtain a visa completely dependent on if and how quickly the local law enforcement agency can provide the certification.
A new Virginia Senate bill (SB 1468) has been signed by Governor Ralph Northam, paving the way for U and T visa applicants to have a faster processing time as they gather the necessary documents for their applications.
Last week in our blog we talked about the federal government's attempt to deal with the unreasonable backlog of U visa applications by allowing crime victims to obtain work authorizations while waiting for visa approval. This week we are happy to tell you about the way that the state of Virginia is working to solve their end of the U visa backlog!
U visas were created by Congress for people who have been victims of certain qualifying crimes in the United States and who are helpful to law enforcement in the prosecution of that criminal activity. In order to submit a U visa application to USCIS, something called a Form I-918, Supplement B must be obtained from an authorized official of a certifying law enforcement agency. This U Nonimmigrant Status Certification that they fill out confirms to the federal government that the U visa applicant was helpful, is currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the subject case. The new bill also helps T visa applicants. A T visa enables certain victims of a severe form of human trafficking to remain in the U.S. for up to four years, and many times qualify for an adjustment of status.
If a law firm has a good relationship with the authorizing official, or the authorizing official regularly fills out Supplement B forms, obtaining the correct documentation from a certifying official can be a quick and easy process. However, oftentimes government bureaucracy takes over, and a form can sit for months on someone's desk without the requisite signatures. Virginia's new law aims to take the guesswork out of waiting for government officials, by requiring certifying agencies to publish their procedures for receiving certification requests.
Importantly, under the new Virginia law, government agencies are under statutory deadlines to respond to certain Supplement B form requests. For example, if a U/T visa applicant is in removal proceedings, the certifying agency must respond to the request within 21 business days. If a derivative will age out the agency is under even tighter deadlines. The bill also requires strict deadline compliance for less urgent requests, such as responses to RFEs (Request for Evidence) and re-issuance of certifications.
Although new laws and procedures always take a little while to be fully implemented, we are excited to see how this new law will impact our U and T visa application processes!
If you have been the victim of a crime or trafficking in the United States and are wondering if you are eligible for a U or T visa, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.