S Visa for Aliens Assisting Law Enforcement

Criminal Immigration Lawyer in New York

The S Visa is given to aliens who assist U.S. law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities. The S Visa is often known as the “snitch visa”.

In 1994, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, an act of the Congress dealing with crime and law enforcement, created the S category. The Act is the largest crime bill in the history of the United States, consisting of 356 pages providing for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs which were designed with significant input from experienced police officers.

In response to the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, Congress passed legislation making permanent a provision that allows aliens with critical information on criminal or terrorist organizations to come into the United States in order to provide information to law enforcement officials. This legislation (S. 1424) became P.L. 107-45 on October 1, 2001.

The law amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to provide permanent authority for the administration of the S visa, which was scheduled to expire on September 13, 2001.

S Visa Requirements

There are two types of S visas, the S-5 and S-6.

To qualify for an S-5 visa, the Attorney General must determine that you:

  • possess reliable information regarding an important aspect of a crime or pending commission of a crime;
  • are willing to share this information with law enforcement officials or to testify in court; and
  • your presence in the U.S. 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 you:

  • possess reliable information regarding an important aspect of a terrorist organization or plot;
  • are willing to share this information with law enforcement officials or to testify in court;
  • are or will be placed in danger for providing that information; and
  • are eligible to receive an award from the State Department for providing such information.

S nonimmigrants must go through a two-step process to apply for a Green Card:

  1. File Form I-854 (Interagency Alien Witness and Informant Record), providing information about all potential grounds of inadmissibility. Failure to disclose all grounds of inadmissibility may result in the alien being removed from the United States. The application must include the agency’s reasons for seeking the cooperation of the alien. Spouses, children and parents must be included on the Form I-854.
  2. After Form I-854 is approved, file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

S Visa holders are allowed to adjust status to permanent resident under a special provision under Section 245(j) of the INA. If the alien has substantially contributed to the success of an authorized criminal investigation or the prosecution of an individual, the Attorney General may adjust the status of the alien (the spouse, married and unmarried sons and daughters, and parents) to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

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.

Only a federal or state law enforcement agency or a U.S. Attorney’s office may submit an application for permanent residence (Green Card) on behalf of a witness or informant when the individual has completed the terms and conditions of his/her S classification.

The requesting agency must also be the same agency that initially requested S nonimmigrant status on behalf of the individual.

Spouses, children, and parents of S-5 and S-6 nonimmigrants are allowed to enter the U.S. in S-7 status.

Qualifying family members of the principal S nonimmigrant may also be eligible to apply for a Green Card.

S nonimmigrants are subject to restrictions while in the U.S., like:

  • 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;
  • Agreeing not to contest a deportation order by any means other than an application for withholding based on fear of persecution if returned home if the deportation proceedings are begun before the alien becomes a permanent resident; and
  • Respecting any other conditions on their stay that the Attorney General imposes.

Only 200 people may be admitted in S-5 status each year, and only 50 may be admitted in S-6 status. The maximum period of admission in S status is three years.

I am a criminal immigration lawyer and I help clients deal with a wide range of issues relating visas. If you are helping Federal authorities in investigating a crime, you may be eligible for an S Visa. Please contact my office to learn more.

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