Oftentimes, immigrants in the United States illegally avoid contacting law enforcement officials out of fear they will be deported. This holds true even in cases where the illegal immigrant is the victim of a serious crime, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, etc. The U Visa exists to protect these individuals, allowing them to report crime without fear of repercussions, as well as to assist law enforcement authorities with their investigations.
The U Visa was introduced in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act to encourage undocumented immigrants to report serious crimes rather than living in fear that doing so will lead to their own deportation. Instead, they would be given the option of this 4-year visa by assisting in law enforcement. It is important to know that this visa is not automatically given. The U visa petition requires certification by a law enforcement agency, such as police, prosecutor, or judge, that the victim was significantly helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying crime at hand. This, along with proof that the victim was, in fact, a victim of the crime, will determine the individual’s eligibility. Such proof is partially established by a personal statement describing the criminal activity that victimized the individual.
U Visa Requirements
You may be eligible for a U visa in the United States if:
- you are the victim of qualifying criminal activity
- you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity
- you have information about the criminal activity (if you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf)
- you were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime (if you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf)
- the crime occurred in the United States or violated US laws
- You are admissible to the United States (if you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192)
Family Member Eligibility for the U Visa
Certain family members will qualify for a derivative U visa, depending on their relationship to the primary visa applicant. The principal applicant must first have their visa approved, however, in order for family members to obtain theirs. Eligible family members include spouse and children if the primary applicant is over age 21. If the primary applicant is under the age of 21, they may be eligible to petition for spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under age 18.
How to Apply
To apply for a U nonimmigrant status, you must submit:
- Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
- Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification
- If any inadmissibility issues, you must file a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant
- A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim
- Evidence to establish each eligibility requirement
U Visa Cap
According to USCIS, each year 10,000 U visas are available for victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute those crimes. Some argue that this cap will discourage undocumented immigrants from reporting such crimes once the cap has been filled, as they may be deterred by the looming waitlist. This begs the question, would lifting this cap encourage the report of more crimes? Would it assist law enforcement in catching criminals?
Currently, USCIS provides work authorization and deferred action to those on the waitlist who are likely eligible and are just waiting for visa availability. Family members of the victim are also eligible for work authorization, but are not automatically granted it and must apply. Perhaps the option of a waitlist, therefore, could be enough to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes of which they are a victim.
U Visa Qualifying Crimes
If any of the following crimes have happened involving you, you may be eligible for a U non-immigrant status:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other Related Crimes
Are You a Victim of Criminal Activity Seeking to Obtain U Nonimmigrant Status?
If so, Contact VisaPlace today. All our cases are handled by competent and experienced immigration professionals who are affiliated with VisaPlace. These professionals consist of lawyers, licensed paralegals, and consultants who work for VisaPlace Legal an award-winning immigration firm that adheres to the highest standards of client service.
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