U Visa Lawyer
The U.S. Congress created the U visa program in October 2000 to reduce the crime rate against communities consisting of undocumented immigrants by encouraging victims to report crimes. Unlike the O-1 visa, the U visa gives undocumented immigrants legal status in the United States if they meet specific criteria. U nonimmigrant status is given to crime victims who have suffered mental or physical abuse in the U.S. This encourages them to assist law enforcement officials or government officials in investigating and prosecuting the crime.
A U Visa attorney can help with your application to ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria. If successful, the U visa lasts for about four years and can be extended in certain circumstances. It also allows the recipient to become a legal permanent resident contingent on fulfilling specific requirements.
U Visa Qualifying Crimes
There is a long list of qualifying criminal activities you can be a victim of to be eligible for a U visa. Some of them include the following:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Abusive sexual contact
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Murder and manslaughter
- Slave trade
Any similar activity with substantially similar elements is included. Also, attempts, conspiracies, and solicitations to commit these crimes qualify as criminal activities for a U visa.
The U visa is open to application from virtually all groups of people in the U.S. and outside it who are victims of crimes committed on U.S. soil. It does not matter whether you have overstayed, never been in lawful status, are in detention, are facing removal proceedings, or are in lawful immigration status. However, you need to meet specific USCIS eligibility criteria to qualify for a U visa. These include:
- Being a victim of one of the qualifying criminal activities.
- The crime occurred on U.S. soil or violated U.S. Law.
- Suffering substantial physical or mental abuse due to the criminal activity referred to above.
- Having information concerning the said crime, and if you are under 16 years or disabled, some other person can offer information on your behalf. They could be a friend, parent, or guardian.
- You have helped, are helping, or will likely help law enforcement investigate and prosecute the said criminal activity.
- Being admissible into the U.S. If you are not, you can fill out Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant, requesting a waiver.
Congress has realized that domestic violence is a problem in the immigration setting. A spouse may be subject to domestic violence but be hesitant to report such crimes for fear of immigration consequences.
Many illegal aliens are commonly victimized by certain criminals who are aware of their legal status and take advantage of the fact that many illegal aliens won't report a crime for fear of deportation.
U Visa Application Process
To apply for a U visa, one needs to file the following:
- Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.
- Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, which is a law enforcement certification that has to be signed by an authorized official of the law enforcement agency confirming that you were helpful, are being helpful, or are likely going to help prosecute and investigate the crime you were a victim of.
- Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant, to request a waiver of inadmissibility when you are inadmissible.
- Evidence that you meet all the U visa eligibility requirements.
- A detailed personal statement describing the crime you were a victim of.
If you are outside the U.S, you should file all appropriate forms and documents with the USCIS Vermont Service Center. However, if you are outside the U.S. and your petition is approved, you will have to process your visa via consular processing, meaning that a consular officer will interview you at the U.S. consulate or embassy near you. After filing, you wait for feedback on whether your petition is approved or denied.
There is a yearly cap of 10,000 U visas granted every year. This cap only includes principal petitioners, and there is no cap for family members seeking U nonimmigrant status. Typically, this cap is always filled every year; hence there is a waiting list for people with applications that have been approved but for whom there are no visas.
Such people receive deferred action or parole and can apply for work authorization pending the availability of a U visa. The entire U visa process can take several years, but having good U visa lawyers on your side may help you avoid mistakes that further elongate the process.
The USCIS decides the fate of your U Visa application. Your status remains unchanged if your U visa application is rejected and you risk being deported.
Adjusting Status on a U Visa
If you meet specific USCIS requirements, you can process an adjustment of status to become a legal permanent resident as a U nonimmigrant. However, you need to have resided continuously in the U.S. for three years as a U nonimmigrant and should not have unreasonably refused to help law enforcement since receiving your U visa.
Also, your relative may be eligible for a green card even if they never received a U-visa or U nonimmigrant status. You need to file Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Nonimmigrant, for each eligible family member. For more inquiries on this subject, you can consult an immigration lawyer.
How Can a U-Visa Lawyer Help?
U visas have an annual cap, unlike other abuse-based visas like the VAWA green card. It also caters to the largest group of the immigrant population, and as a result, numerous people apply for it every year. The implication is that competition for the visa is very stiff. Having a lawyer prepare or review your visa application may give you an upper hand.
If you need the help of a skilled immigration lawyer with a track record of positive results, look no further than Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law. Book a free consultation today and start your U visa journey!
Frequently Asked Questions
The USCIS allows certain qualifying family members to get a derivative U visa if the principal applicant’s visa is approved. The relatives that can get derivative visas depend on whether the principal applicant is above or below 21 years old.
If the principal applicant is above 21 years old, they can bring their spouse and children on a derivative visa. If they are below 21 years old, however, they can only apply for a derivative visa on behalf of their spouse, children, unmarried siblings below 18, and parents.
The U visa application is free.
It is generally advised to avoid traveling out of the United States while processing a U visa, especially if the travel is for an extended period. The reason is that immigration authorities may deem you unable to help law enforcement authorities with the criminal investigation since you are out of the country, disqualifying you from getting the visa. You may also face difficulty returning to the U.S. If you have to travel, it is advisable to consult knowledgeable U visa attorneys first.