The City of Philadelphia recently updated its policy regarding U visa certifications and T visa endorsements. The City’s updated interpretation of the requirements for these visa applications determined that involvement with a Department of Human Services (DHS) investigation could qualify as a “county investigation” under the current federal application requirements. Read on to learn more about what these changes mean.
What are U visas and T visas?
A U visa is a temporary immigration classification that was created by Congress in 2000 through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in recognition that many non-citizen persons who are victims of crimes may hesitate to contact or cooperate with law enforcement or child and adult welfare investigations, out of fear that their immigration status makes them vulnerable.
A T visa is also a temporary immigration classification created through the TVPA in order to protect victims of human trafficking and to strengthen the ability to investigate and prosecute human trafficking crimes.
What are U visa certifications and T visa endorsements?
U visa certifications: Crime victims who wish to apply for a U visa must include a certification completed by a certifying agency, along with their full application, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—a federal agency within the United States Department of Homeland Security.
T visa endorsements: For trafficking victims who wish to apply for a T visa, submission of an endorsement is not required, but USCIS gives great weight to the T visa endorsement when reviewing the victim’s application.
What is new about the certification process?
The City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services has worked with the City’s Law Department to develop a process where those who have cooperated with a child welfare investigation may request DHS certify or endorse a U or T visa application.
Previously, only the Philadelphia Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office provided these certifications and endorsements. However, as the investigating agency of child welfare matters, DHS qualifies as a U visa certifying agency, as well as a T visa endorsing agency. If appropriate in a specific case, DHS can make a statement that the U or T visa petitioner was the victim of a qualifying crime, has information about it, and is being helpful, has been helpful, or is likely to be helpful to DHS in the investigation of the qualifying crime. This can be submitted as one piece of evidence in support of the visa application but does not automatically grant the non-citizen crime victim U or T visa status.
All certification requests should be sent to:
City of Philadelphia Law Department
Chief Deputy City Solicitor, Child Welfare Unit
1515 Arch Street, 16th floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102