The Department of Labor planning to exercise authority to certify the U Visa.

By Shah Peerally

The Department of Labor (DOL) certifying U visas

DOL-signing-u-visa-certificationsIn April 2015, the DOL announced that they will now exercise their authority to certify certain U visas. It is actually amazing news for workers who are actually victims of abusive employers under the H1B, L, H2A, H2B and other working visas. It will also apply for nannies, sex workers and similar workers who are brought to the United States and abused by their employers. Formerly only the police, the District Attorney, FBI or similar authorities will be the only one signing on the U visa certification. With this move, the government is now including the DOL in the group. In turn this will widely expand those who are eligible to obtain a U visa.

What is a U visa and who qualifies?

The U Visa are for those people who are victims of certain crimes. In order to qualify for a U visa the person should be a victim of qualifying criminal activity, has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of the criminal activity, and has information about the criminal activity. For those who are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on the behalf. The person has to also be or was helpful or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Those who are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf. The crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. Laws. Then you have to be admissible to the United States. If the person might not admissible, he or she may apply for a waiver on a form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant. Since not all the crimes are covered under the U visa, the law has determined that the qualifying criminal activities are:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes*†

*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.

†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.

How the DOL wants to certify new U visas.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced in April 2015 (see press release) that the labor department’s Wage and Hour Division will begin to exercise its authority to certify applications for trafficking victims seeking “T” visas. The division will also certify “U” visa requests when it detects three additional qualifying criminal activities in the course of its workplace investigations: extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting. The announcement was made at a roundtable on new American integration in Seattle hosted by OneAmerica.

“The Labor Department is taking important steps to provide more support for workers who have been exploited significantly because of their immigrant status,” said Perez. “These actions will protect workers, and help law enforcement protect our communities and public safety.”

These efforts build on the work the department began 2011, when it started to certify U visa applications for victims of five qualifying crimes found in its workplace investigations: involuntary servitude, peonage, trafficking, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. By expanding its U visa certifications to include extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting and by completing T visa certifications, the department is providing additional support to workers it believes are victims of the relevant crimes and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement.

H and L visas Abuses

Based on this press release, we can only conclude that employers who employ foreign workers without complying with the labor conditions or who refuse to pay or bench their employees with no pay might actually see the same employee be handed a U visa.

As you know benching and mistreating foreign employees is often penalized by the Department of Labor. Now such penalties might actually be a blessing in disguise for the H or L visa holders who are victims of such crimes.

Nanny Abuses

Many people tend to bring nanny’s to the United States to work at their homes as maid and often underpay these individuals. Now it seems, in case they complain to the Department of Labor and the DOL agrees with them, they might actually qualify for a U visa.

Agricultural workers who are abused

Many agricultural workers are undocumented and underpaid. They work under harsh conditions and are often mistreated by the farm owners. If the workers complain and found to be victims of fraud or are considered “forced labor”, they might be eligible for the U visas.

Massage Therapists and sex workers.

Unfortunately many foreign nationals who are originally brought as massage therapists end up as ‘sex workers’. They will also qualify under the U visa.

The Shah Peerally Law Group PC welcomes this addition.

Allowing the DOL to certify a U visa is a very good move by the United States government since it will protect employees and abuses by many companies. It will also ease the ability for immigration practitioners to deal with another authority to obtain a U certification.

The Shah Peerally law group which advocates for human and immigrant rights, welcomes this change and invites all those who are genuinely being abused by their employers to adequately file a complain with the DOL and contact us if they need help with their U – Visas and other immigration needs. Feel free to call (510) 742 5887 or email info@peerallylaw.com for any assistance.