NYC Human Rights Commission to Certify U & T Applications29 Feb 2016
On February 9, 2016, New York City (NYC) Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), Carmelyn P. Malalis, announced that the CCHR has been designated as an agency authorized to provide U and T visa certification. This makes the CCHR the first anti-discrimination agency in a major U.S. city to be granted such authority.
Background on T and U Visas
Congress created the T nonimmigrant category in October 2000 through the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). T status was meant to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking and to offer protection to trafficking victims. The U category was also created as part of the VTVPA, but was not made available until October 17, 2007. U status allows victims of qualifying crimes to remain in the United States while assisting law enforcement with both investigations and prosecutions. The U category also allows beneficiaries a chance to request employment authorization and the possibility of applying for lawful permanent resident (green card) status. More information on the U visa is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Enhancements to U Category Help to Better Protect Crime Victims (23.Jul.2014).
U or T Certifications by Various Agencies
In order to qualify for U status, a foreign national victim must obtain certification from a qualifying government entity, such as a law enforcement agency or a prosecutor. Certification is not required for a T visa case, but does provide the applicant with access to certain benefits and, typically, greatly increases one’s chance approval. Finding an authorized official willing to provide certification for a T or U petition, however, can be extremely difficult.
CCHR as Certifying Agency
The CCHR is a civil law enforcement agency that has been granted the authority to identify crimes that may qualify an individual for U or T visa certification, including sexual assault in the workplace, tenant harassment, forced labor, extortion, and human trafficking. By authorizing the CCHR to issue U and T visa certifications, NYC seeks to protect all of its residents under the New York City Human Rights Law, regardless of an individual’s immigration status.
The designation of the CCHR as a certifying agency should make it less burdensome for prospective T and U applicants in NYC to obtain certification. It further may prove to be a model for other cities and states seeking to make the T and U categories more accessible in their respective jurisdictions to foreign nationals who have been victimized.
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