U Visa Certification Advocacy Toolkit
Immigrant survivors of certain qualifying crimes are able to obtain a U Visa in certain circumstances. One of the requirements includes being helpful, having been helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity. In order to even submit a U Visa application, the survivor needs to obtain a signed certification, Form I-918 Supplement B.
Survivors of crimes, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, kidnapping, involuntary servitude, extortion and witness tampering — to name a few — will ask investigators and/or prosecutors of a crime to sign this form. Certifiers include, but are not limited to:
- Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies;
- Federal, State and Local prosecutors’ offices;
- Federal, State and Local Judges;
- Federal, State Departments of Labor;
- Federal, State, and Local Family Protective Services;
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
- Other investigative agencies.
Immigrants can be particularly vulnerable to certain crimes due to many factors, such as the lack of knowledge around U.S. laws, cultural difference, separation from family and friends, language barriers, and fear of being detained and/or deported.
The U Visa was created to help build and strengthen community ties with law enforcement so that immigrants are not afraid to come forward and report crimes. It allows for these crimes to be investigated without immigrants fearing deportation.
Unfortunately, the reality is that certification is done differently with every certifier, in every locality across the various states. This means that victims of crime cannot reliably depend on being treated the same way in each jurisdiction and with different certifiers. Police may defer to prosecutors or vice versa. Some certifiers may refuse to certify if the case received a certain disposition that was not a conviction, or if a perpetrator was never arrested. Others may not certify if a case has been open too long. Certain certifiers may take many months to respond to a request. There are those certifiers who will not certify cases unless they are open, while others will not certify unless they are closed. Then there are some who just might refuse to certify for no reason at all.
None of these are requirements placed on the U Visa by Congress but are internal obstacles that certifiers end up placing on those who are most vulnerable. No arrest needs to take place and no conviction needs to occur — as often these are not indicators of a victim’s helpfulness. When certifiers do not sign, this leads to reluctance on behalf of immigrants who will not understand nuances in internal policies and will only know that they called the police and/or testified at court but never received certification. This also adds undue burdens for those without representation.
Obstacles placed by certifiers often fail to take into account the difficulties and barriers immigrants may face when coming forward. Many times, someone may request certification long after the crime occurred (in cases where they cooperated with law enforcement). The immigrant just did not know about the U Visa. It is unreasonable to punish them for a lack of knowledge, or for not being ready to submit a U Visa application which involves retelling and retraumatizing the victim. The more obstacles, the less likely that an immigrant will try and navigate a complex system that already seems stacked against them. This does not lend itself to public safety as immigrants will be less likely to come forward and report crimes.
Therefore, it is crucial to have state laws that make good policies uniform for all certifiers. If there is no state law, certifiers can still adopt good policies around U Visa certification.
It is common (and understandable) that many certifiers do not understand the full implications of certifying or not certifying. Because of this, we hope this toolkit will be a resource for:
- Lawmakers seeking to put forth U Visa Certification bills;
- Certifiers trying to understand why certification is important, and how they can establish good U Visa Certification policies;
- Advocates who want to help ensure that these bills and policies are considered;
- Everyone who will want to ensure that the implementation of any new law is conducted smoothly and fully understood.
Should your organization, agency or legislator need assistance or training on these issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to StateAndLocalAdvocacy@cliniclegal.org.
CLINIC has prepared a number of resources that can be downloaded below to aid advocates, law enforcement and other certifiers, and lawmakers on best practices for assisting immigrant survivors of crime in obtaining a U Visa Certification.
- Checklist on What to Include in a U Visa Certification Bill
- Map and Table Along with Links to State Laws Regarding U Visa Certification
- U Visa Certification Guide for Law Enforcement
- How to Respond to a U Visa Certification Request
- U Visa Certification Frequently Asked Questions
- Tips for Certifiers on Having a Successful U Visa Certification Process/Policy
- Sample Language for a U Visa Certification Bill
- PowerPoint Training for Certifiers Around U Visa Certification
- USCIS Page on Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status
- USCIS Page on I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
- DHS U Visa Law Enforcement Certification Guide
- DHS U Visa Law Enforcement Resource Guide - 2019
- USCIS U Visa Law Enforcement Resource Guide - 2022
- DHS U Visa Immigration Relief for Victims of Certain Crimes
- DOL U and T Visa Certifications