The United States allows immigrants who are victims of certain serious crimes to apply for a U-Visa. The U Visa provides a protection from deportation and work permit. It was created in 2000 as part of a bill that allows immigrants to testify against criminals without being deported. Find out how a U-Visa can benefit you and what qualified crimes fall into this category.
Do you want to learn more about U-Visa? At Brudner Law, we can provide you with all the information to guide you through the application process.
What Is a U-Visa?
The U-Visa is a special type of visa available to victims of certain crimes who agree to assist law enforcement officials. It provides temporary legal status to victims of specific crimes who have suffered physical or mental abuse at the hands of their abusers and are willing to help law enforcement officials investigate or prosecute these crimes. The U-Visa aims to improve relations between law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities by encouraging crime victims to come forward.
Unfortunately, many applicants wait years for their U Visa applications to be approved. In response to a large waiting list for U-Visas, the government has changed the rules for applicants. Now applicants wait in the United States instead of their home countries. While they wait for their U-Visas, the government grants them temporary status.
A U-Visa allows a person to live in the country legally for up to four years. If a person has held a U-Visa for three years, they can apply for a green card, which can eventually lead to legal resident status.
Related: How Much Does it Cost to Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
What Are Some Benefits of the U-Visa?
These types of visas are very beneficial and can help applicants begin the process of citizenship. Some of the benefits include:
- They can remain in the United States for four years
- Eligible to work through an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Can adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident and obtain a green card in three years
- May be able to bring family members to the United States
- Protection from deportation
A U-Visa does offer a pathway to citizenship. To become a US citizen, applying for citizenship through the adjustment of status process is necessary. After spending five years in the United States as a resident and meeting all the essential requirements, an individual may apply for citizenship.
However, there are a few limitations with a U-Visa, they include:
- There is an annual admission limit, with only 10,000 U-Visa issued yearly. This causes a huge backlog that results in applicants waiting for years for the visa.
- Traveling abroad does come with risks, including the possibility of being denied re-entry to the United States.
- A criminal record can complicate the process, leading to a denial.
Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Citizenship After You Apply?
Who Qualifies for a U-Visa?
To get a U-Visa, an immigrant must prove they’ve suffered physical or emotional harm because of a crime committed against them. To obtain the visa, the applicant must have a certificate showing they have assisted in an investigation from an approved government agency and show proof of their status as an immigrant victim. Someone previously ruled inadmissible can still seek a certificate of helpfulness. They must apply for a waiver to cancel their previous ruling.
The eligibility for getting a certificate of helpfulness includes:
- Be a victim of a qualyfying crime committed in the United States
- Have proof of physical or emotional harm because of a crime committed against them
- Have critical information about the crime
- Considered willing to help a law enforcement agency
If the victim meets certain criteria, they can fill out the Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant, Form-192. With approval, it can grant them U-Visa status.
To be eligible for a Certificate of Helpfulness, an applicant must provide evidence of serious mental or physical harm. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) assesses three factors in determining whether the suffering was severe:
- The length of time the victim suffered
- The amount of suffering
- Potential damage to the victim
What Crimes Qualify for a U-Visa?
The following are some of the crimes that can qualify a person for a U-Visa:
- Blackmail and extortion of the victim
- Unlawful detention or kidnapping
- Sexual assault
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Human trafficking
- Fraud and exploitation of alien workers
- Incest and mutilation of female genitalia
- Fraud and exploitation of foreign workers
- Involuntary servitude
- Witness tampering
- Torture and slavery
- Forced labor
- Domestic violence
- Conspiracy attempt
The activities that qualify for the U-Visa include, but are not limited to, these qualifying activities. Any other crime of a similar nature is also included.
What Is the Cost of a U-Visa?
The U-Visa is free of charge, but relatives of the applicant who wish to apply for adjustment of status must file Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Relatives of a U-1 Non-immigrant. This costs $230 (this is subject to change, so please check on the USCIS website before filing). If the relative cannot afford this fee, they may qualify for a waiver by filing Form I-912, Petition for Fee Waiver.
Related: How To Maintain Your Green Card
How To Get the U-Visa
There are several steps in the U-Visa application process. All applicants must file through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Here are the steps:
- File Form I-918 – the petition for U nonimmigrant status
- Submit any supplemental information, such as Form I-918; Supplement B. This form must be signed by an authorized law enforcement official, confirming that the applicant will or has contributed to an investigation.
- Offer a statement describing the criminal activity and explain how you were the victim.
- If there are any inadmissibility issues, the applicant must file Form I-192.
Learn More About U-Visas
Only a limited group of individuals can qualify for a U-Visa. There are strict requirements. Many times, these visas can lead to citizenship in the United States. If you want to learn more about these visas, contact an experienced immigration attorney.
Do I need an immigration attorney to help with this process? At Brudner Law, we can help you apply for U-Visa and answer any questions about the application and immigration process.