Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It is a very severe form of worker exploitation in which women, men, and children are recruited or kidnapped and then compelled to work. The victim is held against their will; this is done with force, deceit, or pressure. False promises of decent jobs and better lives often entice human trafficking victims. Women are particularly susceptible to trafficking due to the global status and opportunity disparities they face.

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the United States will provide U-visas to foreign nationals who have been the victims of serious physical or mental abuse as a direct result of trafficking that violated U.S. domestic law or occurred within the United States.

A part of the process for the U-visa is to get an immigration psychology evaluation. Read on to learn more about the U-visa process, and how immigration psychology can help human trafficking victims gain their U-visa.

What Is A U-visa?

A U-visa is granted to a victim of a serious crime who is an immigrant. With this type of visa, the immigrant can remain in the country. They wouldn’t be able to return to their home country and give the information American law enforcement needs to solve the crime. In 2000, the government passed this statute to compel witnesses to come forward.

The U-visa has gained popularity as of late. In 2009, there were only 10,000 applicants, but the waiting list had 21,000 people. By the end of 2016, there were 60,000 people on the waiting list for U-visas and 150,000 people who had applied for them. It’s a major issue because the government only issues 10,000 U-visas per year. There are currently 78,066 victims on the U-visa waiting list.

Government officials altered the requirements for U-visa applicants as the waiting list grew increasingly long. As a result, people are increasingly choosing to wait in the United States rather than in their home country. They are given temporary status by the government even though they do not yet have a U-visa.

How Does A U-visa Work?

Legally, staying in the United States for up to four years is possible for those who hold U-visas. In exceptional circumstances, a court may even allow the visa holder to remain in the United States for longer. A U-visa holder who has been in the country for three years is eligible to apply for permanent resident status in the United States.

Which Government Agencies Offer A U-visa?

All levels of law enforcement can issue U-visas. Most U-visas are issued by state and municipal governments; however, federal entities occasionally issue them. The most likely officials to provide a U-visa in exchange for testimony are prosecutors and judges.

Who Qualifies For A U-visa?

A person must demonstrate they are the victim of a serious crime. To do so, the immigrant must obtain a certificate of helpfulness from a government-approved agency. Additionally, the applicant must demonstrate they have endured physical or emotional abuse because of the crime.

A previous immigration violation does not prevent an individual from obtaining a certificate of helpfulness. Someone who was previously ruled inadmissible only needs to take one additional step. They need a waiver to overturn the previous ruling.

These are the rules for obtaining a certificate of helpfulness:

  • They’re the victim of a crime committed in America
  • They have proof of abuse
  • They’re holders of important info about the crime
  • Considered useful by law enforcement for bringing the offender to justice.

So long as the victim meets these requirements, they must complete Form 192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-immigrant. This form grants U-visa status.

The primary requirement for receiving a certificate of helpfulness is to provide evidence of severe mental or physical abuse. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will require evidence. They will require medical and legal documentation to support the claim. They will consider three factors when determining whether the suffering was severe:

  • Amount of suffering
  • Length of time the victim suffered
  • Potential of permanent damage to the victim

Children under the age of 16 are ineligible for the position of the helpful person. The responsibility lies with their parent, legal guardian, or next of kin. This individual will relay crime-related information. They will be called a helpful applicant by the government.

It is common for victims to develop a mood disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after surviving human trafficking. A psychological evaluation can aid in establishing how the crime affected a person’s mental state and obtaining the certificate of usefulness.

What are the Benefits of the U-visa?

The U-visa grants legal temporary status and work authorization for four years in the United States. A U-visa may be extended if law enforcement certifies that it is necessary for the visa holder’s continued assistance in the investigation or prosecution, or if exceptional circumstances exist. Moreover, some U-visa holders will be eligible for Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) status and eventual citizenship. A U-visa holder is eligible to apply for a Green Card if they:

  • Have been in the United States continuously for three years
  • Have complied with requests to cooperate in investigations or prosecutions
  • Have good moral character
  • Qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility

The recipient of a U-visa is also granted limited access to public benefits. The state in which a U-visa recipient lives determines the benefits that are available to them. Additionally, U-visa holders have access to services that are not considered public benefits but are available to all immigrants.

What Are The Limitations of the U-visa?

Due to a current backlog at the Department of Homeland Security, the annual number of U-visas that can be issued is capped at 10,000. While waiting for their U-visa to be issued, a person who has been approved for one is still eligible to receive work authorization.

How Can A Psychological Evaluation Help You With Getting A U-visa

Victims of major crimes may require psychiatric evaluations as a part of the U-visa application process. The psychiatric evaluations help prove the person has suffered extreme mental or bodily abuse because of their ordeal. The mental health and the effects of the offense on that health are both evaluated in the U-visa immigration evaluation.

Psychological evaluations for U-visas are called immigration evaluations, and they consist of clinical interviews and standardized tests. Psychological issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and significant depression, are detailed in the client’s report.

What Can I Expect During an Immigration Evaluation?

We get a lot of questions from clients regarding what they can expect when they meet with a psychologist for an immigration psychology evaluation. Immigration psychology evaluations can be very anxiety-provoking, especially for someone that has never met a psychologist.

We want to ease some of your anxiety, so we’ve included a quick overview of what to expect during an evaluation.

A typical immigration psychology evaluation includes the following:

  • An in-depth conversation with you and your loved ones. The interview offers insight into your cognitive and psychological functioning currently as well as your medical and social history.
  • Consultation with your attorney to decide the right sort of waiver for your case.
  • Documentation analysis includes but is not limited to medical and psychiatric records that shed light on your mental and emotional health.
  • As needed, we may give you a variety of psychological evaluations and questionnaires to help zero in on the precise nature of your mental distress.
  • When we’re done with the review, we’ll offer your lawyer a detailed report that incorporates all of our findings.

Get Help With Your U-visa Application

The issue of human trafficking into the United States is an ongoing problem. In search of a better life, an increasing number of people are seeking entry into the United States. The stress and abuse that comes with being a victim have led to many victims needing psychological evaluations.

If you want someone to look out for your interests during this process, hiring an attorney is a must. If you are applying for a U-visa as a victim of human trafficking, your lawyer will almost certainly ask for an immigration psychology evaluation to assist your case.

The application process for a U-visa might be complex, but we hope that this overview has simplified it for you. Consider Claudia Ribas LCSW if you require a psychological evaluation for your U-visa.