Part 2 of 2
“Harassment” means acts, words or gestures that the harasser uses that
get in the way of someone’s safety, security, or privacy. This can be
threatening to hurt the individual or their property, stalking or
following them, or repeatedly mailing or delivering objects to them.
A person who is being harassed can get a restraining order to prevent harassment in situations where they could not get an Order for Protection (OFP). For an OFP, the abuser must be family, a cohabitant or ex-cohabitant, a significant romantic partner or significant other. However, for a harassment order, the relationship between the harassed and the harasser does not matter. The harasser may be a stranger, a neighbor or a co-worker.
Getting a restraining order from harassment is like getting an OFP. The individual being harassed must first:
- Apply at the court with a petition and affidavit. The court has the forms.
- Pay filing fees (One can file for free, if they are low income). Sometimes there are no fees. This depends on what the harasser has done.
- The sheriff serves the papers.
The hearing is like an OFP hearing. The Court order can:
- Order the harasser not to contact the victim and their family;
- Allow police to arrest the harasser without a warrant; and
- It lasts for 2 years.
There are several situations where victims of domestic violence or violence in general often refuse to report or help prosecute the perpetrators due to the fact that the victims do not have immigration status in the U.S. or have expired status. In such situations there are specific immigration laws designed to encourage victims of violence without status to come forward and report the crime.
What is a U Visa?
The U visa is a special visa for victims of certain crimes, including crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault among others. The person must be the victim or “indirect victim” of the crime, cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of the crime, and show that they have suffered on account of the crime. Some of the victim’s family members can be included in a U-visa application.
A U-visa application is not an application against the person who committed the crime. It is an application for the victim. There is strict confidentiality through the entire application for a U-visa. The application and documentation will not be revealed to the person who committed the crime, or to other individuals in the community. The person who committed the crime will not be interviewed about the applicant’s U visa case.
Victims of domestic violence who do not have legal status in the U.S. will be well advised to immediately contact an attorney with experience in family law and immigration law to determine if they qualify for U visa certification. As a general rule, immigration has not been deporting U visa applicants and there is a general waiver even for those victims who came in illegally or have an outstanding order of deportation. There are several issues to consider in such situations; again it is imperative to contact an attorney to talk with you in detail about this.
If a U-visa case is approved, immigration will grant U visa status to the victim applicant for four years. Approved applicants will have the right to apply for Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) three years from the date of the approval. Approved applicants need to be eligible for residency at that time. Contact an immigration lawyer for specific details about this.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a list of crimes that qualify for U visa certification, they include but are not limited to:
Domestic Violence, Obstruction of Justice, Unlawful Criminal Restraint, Abusive Sexual Contact, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation, Felonious Assault, False Imprisonment, FMG, Kidnapping, Perjury, Prostitution, Rape, Torture, Trafficking, Witness Tampering and Other related Crimes.
Call 911 if you have a domestic violence emergency. Consult an immigration/family lawyer or professional to determine if you are eligible for any of the reliefs listed in this article.
Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for an individual case or situation. The information is intended to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice, consult an attorney experienced in family/immigration law.