On March 12, 2024, ACLU of Virginia filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit on behalf of an immigrant survivor of domestic violence whose request for a U visa certification the Roanoke Police Department is refusing to certify in open defiance of state law.

The U nonimmigrant visa, or U visa, is a form of immigration relief for noncitizen survivors of violent crimes or human trafficking. When people harmed by qualifying criminal activity cooperate with law enforcement agencies to investigate or prosecute that crime, the U visa provides them with a pathway to citizenship. 

In 2021, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law requiring local law enforcement agencies to respond to U visa certification requests by either certifying or denying them with a written explanation for why the applicant does not qualify. The law additionally establishes a timeline by which agencies must respond, and it requires that every agency publish the procedures by which they will do so.

In 2012, our client aided the Roanoke Police Department’s investigation and prosecution of her partner, who physically abused her. After the conclusion of her case, the police department provided her with a U visas certification. Now that our client is eligible to adjust her status to become a lawful, permanent resident, she is required to obtain a recertification of her U visa from the Roanoke Police Department to demonstrate that she participated in the investigation and prosecution of the crime that harmed her. However, the Roanoke Police Department is improperly claiming they "are not required by state or federal law" to respond to U visa certifications. 

We are arguing that Roanoke Police Department's refusal to respond to the U visa certificaiton is a violation of Virginia law. 


Sophia Gregg


Roanoke City Circuit Court