Without an executed and signed certification, the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) cannot issue a U-Visa. Certification is where the U-Visa applicant requests and a law enforcement officer confirms that the applicant suffered from a qualifying U-visa crime, and is helpful or likely to be helpful in the prosecution of the crime. The process is also referred to as “Certification of Helpfulness”.
Under the U-Visa Act, “Helpfulness” is not specifically defined. But in several post enactment guidelines, DHS has explained the term, and in general, now means that a victim of a U-visa crime informs law enforcement that she is a victim of the crime, and has specific and detailed knowledge of the crime, and has been, or is being or likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the detection, investigation or prosecution of the crime. Some of the ways a victim can be helpful to law enforcement is to identify the crime perpetrator, assist in his apprehension, provide evidence useful to finding and apprehending him, and agree to testify against him if the case were to go to trial.
The certification starts with the victim filling out the USCIS Form I-918 and filing it with a particular law enforcement agency, which will, in turn, assess her usefulness to the investigation of the crime, and if satisfied sign the form. Occasionally, the process is initiated by law enforcement. Where certification is initiated by a crime victim, it is usually done with advocate or attorney assistance. The agency head or his delegate signs the certification. The law enforcement agency is not obligated to certify a U-Visa application since certification is purely discretionary. Neither the victim, nor her attorney or the DHS or any other agency can compel a certification. By signing a certification, law enforcement attests that the victim’s crime information is true and correct to the best of his knowledge.
Certification has no statute of limitation, and valid even where the investigation or the prosecution of the case is closed. Once the certification is completed, the law enforcement official must return it to the victim or her attorney. It does not need to separately send it to the CIS. The victim can then send it together with her U-Visa application to the CIS. The head of a law enforcement agency at the federal, state of local level or prosecutor, judge or other agency with authority to investigate or prosecute a qualifying crime can issue a certification. This includes, among others, agencies with criminal investigative authority, child and adult protective services, Equal Opportunity Commission, federal and state departments of labor, and even law enforcement officials with a memorandum of understanding with DHS.
A U-Visa certification can be revoked if the victim unreasonably refuses to provide assistance after the U-visa has been granted. In such a case, the law enforcement agency would inform the USCIS of the victim’s refusal, and after due investigation, the visa will be revoked. The signing of a certification does not guarantee a U-visa grant. It is merely a fulfillment of a requirement in the U-visa process. Other requirements have to be met for the U-visa to be ultimately granted.
A U-visa certification is valid even if the initial crime being investigated is different from the crime that is eventually prosecuted. For example, a U-visa investigation starts with burglary, which is not a listed qualifying crime, but in the process of investigation, the person is found to be a victim of torture.
This blogger is an attorney at Swaray Law Office, LTD. About 65% of the attorney’s practice is in immigration law. Swaray Law Office is located in Brooklyn Center in Minnesota. Brooklyn Center is north of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The city is contiguous to Robbinsdale, Crystal, Brooklyn Park, Blaine, Maple Grove and Golden Valley. Should you be interested in contacting the office, visit www.swaraylawoffice.com or 763-549-0670 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.