The U nonimmigrant (U visa) status was specifically created for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa process is a path to residency, also known as a green card, which grants permanent legal status in the United States. The U visa process is long and tedious and involves several steps, but if granted, it can provide you with legal status in the country.
Congress enacted the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. This legislation was intended to reinforce law enforcement agencies’ ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. This legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
To be eligible for a U visa, you must meet the following requirements: (1) be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity; (The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) contains a list of qualifying crimes.) (2) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity; (3) have information about the criminal activity; (Minors have their own rules for this.) (4) were helpful or are being helpful to law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute; (5) the crime occurred inside the United States or violated U.S. laws, and; (6) are admissible to the United States. A waiver is available for qualified individuals who are otherwise not admissible.
Certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship to you, the principal, filing for the U visa. The principal petitioner must have his/her petition for a U visa approved before his/her family members can be eligible for their own derivative U visa.
Before applying for the U Visa, the applicant must first obtain a signed U visa certification, which verifies that the crime is a qualifying crime and that the applicant was a victim. This can be done by contacting the police department where the report was made or the district attorney’s office of the county where the crime is being prosecuted and requesting a certification. It is imperative that the applicant obtain a copy of the police report in order to present it to either of these two agencies when requesting a certification. Once the police report is obtained and the certification is acquired, then the rest of the evidence can be collected, such as medical reports, counseling records, etc. to prove substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime.
After filing the U visa petition, then the applicant will wait for, in most cases, many years before receiving an answer on his/her request. Congress placed a cap of the number of U visas which are granted annually, so every applicant is subject to this wait time. Once U visa status is granted, then the applicant can apply for lawful permanent residency after three years of obtaining U visa status. If you believe you may qualify for a U visa, please consult with one of our immigration attorneys. We can determine your eligibility and guide you through this difficult process.