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This article was originally published on February 17, 2009.

Long-awaited regulations that govern the process by which survivors of certain serious crimes and human trafficking may apply to become lawful permanent residents went into effect Jan. 12, 2009. The Department of Homeland Security issued the regulations for U and T visas, special protections that were carefully crafted by Congress to encourage non-resident victims to get help and report crimes.

According to the new regulations, a U visa holder seeking to apply for permanent residency must demonstrate that she:

  • Was granted a U visa and currently holds U nonimmigrant status
  • Has been continuously physically present in the United States for three years (from the date of admission as a U non-immigrant)
  • Did not unreasonably refuse to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the underlying U visa crime after being granted a U visa
  • Is not inadmissible under INA 212(a)(3)(E) (participants in Nazi persecution, genocide, or the commission of any act of torture or extrajudicial killing)
  • Meets a discretionary threshold, i.e., that adjustment of status is justified for humanitarian reasons, in the public interest, or to assure family unity

A T visa holder seeking to apply for permanent residency must demonstrate that she:

  • Was admitted as a T non-immigrant
  • Has been continuously physically present in the United States for three years, from the date of admission as a T non-immigrant (alternatively, applicants can file for adjustment before accruing three years of continuous physical presence if the Department of Justice certifies that the investigation or prosecution of her traffickers is complete)
  • Complied with any reasonable requests for assistance or would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal
  • Has maintained good moral character while in the United States
  • Is admissible to the United States
  • Meets a discretionary threshold, i.e., that adjustment of status is justified for humanitarian reasons, in the public interest, or to assure family unity

Congress created U and T visas as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Tahirih Justice Center is pleased that the new regulations have been issued, as they provide clarity and a clear process for immigrant women and children to build safe and stable futures in the United States the wake of violence.

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