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A “U” Visa, otherwise known as a U nonimmigrant visa, is a system created to protect victims of certain crimes who are helpful to law enforcement during the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The United States Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa when it passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.
Before the U visa, immigrant noncitizens were often reluctant to report crimes and acts of violence against them for fear of detention, deportation, or other consequences that could negatively affect their immigration status.
The U Visa encourages noncitizen victims of crime to call the police and report criminal behavior perpetrated against them without jeopardizing their immigration status in the U.S.
Applying for a U visa can be a complicated process. Working with an experienced U Visa attorney in Phoenix is essential to ensure your application is processed as quickly as possible.What is a U Visa?
A U Visa allows certain noncitizen immigrants who are victims of crime to remain in the U.S. To qualify for a U visa in Phoenix, you must meet specific qualifications (discussed more in the next section). Generally, individuals who receive a U visa are entitled to the following benefits:
- Permission to reside in the U.S. for at least four years
- The opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident, and eventually, a citizen
- Ability to lawfully work in the US
- Stopping deportation (removal) proceedings against the U visa applicant
- Visa eligibility for some family members
- Potential eligibility for public assistance and benefits, depending on the state
Depending on the circumstances, some family members may be eligible for a U Visa as well. Contact a Phoenix U Visa attorney to discuss the details of your case to learn if your family members qualify.Requirements for a U Visa in Phoenix
Not everyone qualifies for a U visa. You must meet strict requirements to be eligible. They include, but are not limited to:
- You are a non-citizen of the U.S.
- A victim of a qualifying crime
- As a result of the crime, you suffered mentally or physically
- You have relevant information about the crime and are willing to assist law enforcement
- The crimes against you were committed in the U.S.
- You meet the U.S. admissibility requirements – There may be waivers available if you are deemed inadmissible.
If you are considering a U visa, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced U visa attorney in Phoenix as soon as possible. Contact us today.U Visa Qualifying Crimes
To be eligible for a U Visa, you must be a victim of a qualifying crime and suffer mental or physical abuse because of it. A few of the most common qualified crimes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Felonious assault
- Obstruction of justice
- And more
It’s important to note that any crimes similar to the ones listed above or by USCIS can be considered qualifying crimes as well. You can find a complete list of qualifying crimes here.What is the U Visa Processing Time?
It can take more than four years for a U visa to be processed. However, the exact time it takes to process your case depends on the circumstances so there are no guarantees. Additionally, U.S. immigration law limits the number of U visas per year to 10,000.
In some cases, USCIS can grant “deferred action” to U visa applicants whose visas have been approved but they haven’t received them yet. However, the wait time to obtain a U visa could be substantially longer if you’re granted deferred action.
Furthermore, those waiting for their U visa don’t have legal status in the U.S. and are not eligible to work. However, if you received deferred action, you could apply to USCIS for work authorization.
Working with a skilled Phoenix U Visa lawyer can help you navigate the process and limit the likelihood of removal or detention while waiting for your U visa.Can I Go From a U Visa to a Green Card?
So long as you meet certain requirements, you may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (green card) after three years of holding a U visa. That will allow you to stay in the U.S. indefinitely and pave the way for eventual citizenship.