Are S Visas Available for Informants Who Cooperate With Law Enforcement?

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hartford defense lawyerImmigrants to the United States may run afoul of a variety of laws that could affect their immigration status. There are multiple issues that could potentially lead to deportation, including being convicted of certain types of crimes. In some cases, law enforcement officials may ask a person to cooperate with an investigation, telling them that by doing so, they can receive an S visa that will allow them to remain in the United States. However, criminal justice and immigration advocates have found that these types of visas are rarely granted, and in many cases, immigrants will still face deportation even if they cooperate with law enforcement and meet all of their legal requirements.

Problems With S Visas

S visas, which are commonly known as “snitch visas,” are available for those who have provided assistance to a law enforcement agency as a witness or informant in a criminal investigation. Up to 200 S visas can be issued each year for people who assist with criminal cases, and an additional 50 visas can be issued in cases related to terrorism investigations. Initially, a person will be allowed to stay in the U.S. with a nonimmigrant status, and if they meet all requirements during the investigation where they are serving as an informant or witness, they will be allowed to apply for a Green Card and become a Lawful Permanent Resident.

Unfortunately, the S visa system has not functioned in practice the way that it is meant to, and very few of these visas are actually issued. In 2018, only 16 S visas were approved in criminal cases, and since 1995, only six visas have ever been approved in cases related to terrorism. In many cases, S visas take between 5 to 10 years to be processed, and they can be denied at any point, resulting in a person losing their immigration status and being deported, even if they have complied with all government requests and fulfilled all of their obligations during an investigation.

The primary issue that affects S visas is the fact that a person will need to deal with multiple government agencies, and navigating bureaucratic red tape can be extremely difficult. An application for an S visa must be submitted by the law enforcement agency that a person is working with. This application is reviewed by the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, and if it is approved, it is sent to the Department of Homeland Security, where it is reviewed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify any grounds for inadmissibility that apply to the applicant. The case is then sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for final adjudication.

An S visa application can be derailed at any stage of the process. Notably, an applicant and any others who would be granted nonimmigrant status through an S visa, such as their spouse or children, are required to waive their right to a hearing to contest deportation. This means that if an application is not handled correctly by personnel at one of the agencies that review the case, a person who faces deportation will not be able to pursue a judicial review of their case.

Contact Our Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorney for Immigration Issues

If you are an immigrant who is involved in a criminal case, you will want to work with an experienced attorney who can help you understand the potential consequences you may face. At the Woolf Law Firm, we can advise you of how you should proceed when cooperating with law enforcement, and we will work to ensure that your rights will be protected throughout your case. To get legal help with your criminal and immigration issues, contact our Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer at 860-290-8690 to set up a complimentary consultation.

Sources:

https://theintercept.com/2021/06/29/informants-s-visa-broken-system/

https://www.nacdl.org/Document/ShiningaLightontheSVisa

https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-eligibility/green-card-for-an-informant-s-nonimmigrant


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