The federal government has 250 S-visas (sometimes called “snitch” visas) at its disposal to award to immigrants who provide information about crimes. See 18 U.S.C. s. 1101(a)(15).
S Visa Qualifications.
All S visa applications for alien witnesses or informants, along with accompanying applications for qualifying family members, must be sponsored and submitted by a law enforcement agency. Individuals cannot self-petition for receipt of an S visa. A nonimmigrant visa in S classification permits a foreign national to remain in the United States and authorizes employment for three years. If their cooperation has contributed to a successful prosecution, the Law enforcement agency apply for them to receive legal permanent resident status. Usually, S-1 visa is a result of Plea Agreement with US Attorney’s Office.
Adustment of status. S visa holders are allowed to adjust status to permanent resident under a special provision under Section 245(j) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If the information supplied by the alien has “substantially contributed” to a successful investigation or prosecution of a crime, they are eligible for adjustment of status. Similarly, if the alien’s information “substantially contributed” to the prevention of an act of terrorism, or to the apprehension of a person involved in terrorist activities, they are allowed to adjust their status.
Restrictions for S visa holders. S nonimmigrants are subject to many restrictions while in the US. These are:
- Reporting to the Attorney General every three months regarding their whereabouts and activities;
- Not being convicted of a crime that is punishable by one or more years in prison;
- S-1 visa holders can not contest a deportation order by any means other than an application for withholding based on fear of persecution; and
- S-1 holders must adhere to any other conditions on their stay the Attorney General imposes.
To qualify for an S-5 visa, the Attorney General must determine that the person –
- Possess reliable information regarding an important aspect of a crime or pending commission of a crime,
- Is willing to share this information with law enforcement officials or to testify in court, and
- That their presence in the US is necessary to the successful investigation or prosecution of the case.
To qualify for an S-6 visa, both the Attorney General and the Secretary of State must determine that the person –
- Possesses reliable information regarding an important aspect of a terrorist organization or plot,
- Is willing to share this information with law enforcement officials or to testify in court,
- Has or will be placed in danger for providing that information, and
- Is eligible to receive an award from the State Department for providing such information.
Family members of the witness (spouse, children unmarried and married or parent) may be granted derivative S-7 classification.
S-Visa Application Process
S nonimmigrants must go through a two step process to apply for a green card.
- Step One – Law Enforcement agency files Form I-854, Interagency Alien Witness and Informant Record on behalf of immigrat.
This form is to be completed by the federal or state law enforcement agency or U.S. Attorney’s Office that initially filed for the S nonimmigrant status on behalf of the individual. Evidence that the witness or informant has fulfilled his or her obligations as an S nonimmigrant and provided information about all potential grounds of inadmissibility must be included with the completed and signed Form I-854 application. Failure to disclose all grounds of inadmissibility may result in the alien being removed (deported) from the United States.
- Step Two – After Form I-854 is approved, an immigrant files Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status on his own behalf.
Applicants should check box “h” in part 2 of the I-485 application and write “S Nonimmigrant” or “S-Qualified Family Member” on the line next to box “h.” Applicants should provide the same documents as any other applicant for adjustment of status.
There has been increasing attention paid to abuses of immigrants under this program: visas promised but never awarded, immigrants who provide significant information but are deported anyway, sometimes at risk to their lives.
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