A “U” visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to victims of certain crimes (e.g. rape, assault, attempted murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, involuntary servitude, domestic violence, stalking) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse. The crime (which must have occurred in the United States or in violation of U.S. laws) must be serious and generally violent in nature. Further, to be eligible for a U visa, a victim of a crime must be willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa was created by the United States Congress as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) in 2000 to encourage victims to report crimes without fear of deportation and to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute certain criminal cases.
To be eligible for a U visa, an individual must:
1. Be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity that occurred in the United States or in violation of U.S. laws.
2. Have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime.
3. Possess information about the criminal activity.
4. Be helpful, have been helpful, or be likely to be helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
5. Be admissible to the United States or obtain a waiver of inadmissibility.
The U visa provides several benefits to the recipients. Among such benefits is temporary legal status in the United States for up to four years, eligibility for work authorization, and the possibility of applying for permanent residency (green card) after three years of continuous presence in the U.S. The number of U visas granted each year is capped at 10,000. However, eligible family members of the principal applicant, such as spouses, children, and in some cases, parents and siblings, may also be eligible for derivative U visas.
Obtaining a U visa is neither an overnight or automatic process. In fact, it can take many years. The most recent statistics indicate that it can take the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency up to 4 years to process a U visa. However, the good news is that a U visa applicant can remain in the United States while the visa is being processed and obtain permission to work. Of course, during that period of time, the immigrant/applicant must fully cooperate with law enforcement.
One of the most significant benefits of obtaining a U visa is that it can lead to a green card which in turn can lead to United States citizenship. In order to be eligible for a green card following receipt of a U visa, an applicant must be (1) physically present in the United States for a continuous period of 3 years since the first date of admission as a U visa nonimmigrant, (2) must have fully cooperated with law enforcement, (3) is not otherwise inadmissible under immigration laws and (4) the applicant’s presence in the United States is justified on humanitarian grounds. If all these factors can be satisfied, a U visa holder can apply for and receive a green card or Lawful Permanent Status.
The process for obtaining a U visa is straightforward but at the same time complicated. There are a number of forms that must be completed, such as Form I-918B, which requires an accompanying certification from a law enforcement agency attesting to the applicant’s helpfulness in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. Because of the nature of the process, including having to work closely with law enforcement, it is important to have an attorney experienced in U visas to avoid any complications or issues.
At BestImmigrationLaywer.com, our team of professionals is well-versed in the U visa process and can help you obtain the benefits you and your family deserve. Call us today or get in touch through this website and let us help you get justice.