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What is a U visa?

If you are an immigrant living in Illinois, a victim of a crime and looking to apply for what is known as a U visa, you may find that local law enforcement officials are reluctant to assist you. Per the Chicago Sun, U visas, which are visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes, are routinely denied to immigrants throughout Chicago and surrounding areas.

Originally created to encourage undocumented immigrants who may be otherwise afraid to come forward to notify law enforcement if they have information about crimes, U visas were given to 755 residents of Illinois within a recent 12-month period. Unlike other immigrations policies, among them the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, U visas offer immigrants a permanent path to citizenship.

Illinois currently ranks third in the nation as far as the number of residents applying for U visas, falling only behind California and Texas. The problems you may experience, should you choose to pursue one in the state, involve the fact that local law enforcement officials generally must sign off on paperwork indicating you effectively helped their investigation. The decision as to whether you actually help the investigation is subjective, and different departments rely on different reasoning in determining whether to approve or deny such requests.

For example, some local authorities will not sign off on paperwork if an immigrant crime victim’s assistance does not result in an arrest and prosecution. If an offender does not receive a formal charge, the department may choose not to honor an immigrant’s cooperation. Some departments, too, will not sign off if the crime involved domestic violence, but the victim maintains a relationship with the perpetrator, or if the crime is gang-related and the department believes the victim, too, has gang ties.

This information about U visas is informative in nature, but it is not a replacement for legal advice. 

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