U-Visa for U.S. Crime Victims
The U-visa was created to help the United States law enforcement officials target criminals off the street. Often, when immigrants fall victim to severe physical or mental abuse, they refrain from speaking to the police in fear of potential legal repercussions. U visa holders not only receive protection for themselves but are also able to have their entire families achieve legal status and later on achieve green cards.
Immigrants awarded with a U-visa can legally reside in the US for up to 4 years. What’s more, they become eligible to apply as a legal permanent resident three years after. If the victim has a family, then this immigrant visa may also be extended to a spouse or minor children with no immigration status in the U.S.
With a U-Visa, cardholders are authorized to work, register for a social security number, apply for a driver’s license, and even apply for some public benefits without worrying about the public charge requirements for a green card.
U-Visa Qualifying Conditions
To be an eligible applicant for U Visas, you must meet the following conditions:
- Victim of a qualifying crime. You must be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity in the United States. This includes violent crimes, enslavement crimes, sexual crimes, crimes for obstruction of justice, and fraud. It also includes crimes that are not “completed” such as attempted crimes, solicitation, or conspiracy.
- Violent crimes: murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, robbery, assault, domestic violence, stalking
- Enslavement Crimes: criminal restraint, kidnapping, abduction, forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, indentured or debt servitude, and false imprisonment.
- Sexual Crimes: rape, incest, sexual trafficking, sexual assault, prostitution, sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation
- Obstruction of Justice Crimes: perjury, witness tampering, withholding of evidence
- Fraud. Crimes in foreign labor contracting
- Serious injuries. You must have proof that you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of one of the qualifying crimes. The Immigration Office will consider the severity of the injury, duration of abuse, and likelihood of causing permanent damage when reviewing your visa application.
- Information about a crime. You must have data about one of the listed violent crimes. For minor or disabled applicants, your parent, guardian, or friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.
- Assistance in a criminal investigation. You need to show that you will be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime you suffered. Again, for applicants with disabilities or children, a proxy may assist law enforcement for them.
- Law Enforcement Certification. Government agencies such as the police or prosecutor investigating the crime you reported must sign Form I-918 Supplement B, also known as the Law Enforcement Certification for you.
- U.S. admissibility. You must be admissible to the United States. If you are inadmissible, you must request a waiver (USCIS Form I-192) to address issues such as Illegal entry, Orders of removal, or other serious crimes. For more information about waivers, consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
Common Mistakes in U-Visa Applications
Forgetting the Law Enforcement Certification. Forgetting this in your application almost leads to a 100% chance of denial.
No grounds of inadmissibility. Your application will be rejected if you left out this portion in your I-192 waiver form. You have to disclose everything that might make you ineligible for legal status in the US. This is why immigration lawyers from Andres Mejer Law perform a full background search with the FBI and all 7 immigration agencies to make sure possible concerns are caught early.
Leaving out dependents in your petition. If you marry prior to filling for a U-Visa, you get to extend it to your spouse and kids. Another example of a missed opportunity is not including your minor children before you apply, or your kids marry leaving them disqualified.
Giving up on your Law enforcement Certification request. When you send a letter to the police requesting this document, don’t give up if you don’t get a signature. Any agency with investigatory authority could actually sign the form. Ask all of them before you give up.
Not filing if the abuser has no conviction. Assuming you were a victim of the qualifying crime, you reported it to the police, and you assisted in the investigation, you’ll be able to meet the criteria even if the abuser wasn’t convicted.
Delaying Your Application. Only 10k visas are issued each year. It is taking over 4 years to get the U-visa from when you apply.
Extending U-Visas to Family
Dependents. If you have dependents whom you want to apply a U-Visa with, there are certain forms that you need to fill up and submit for each dependent. Qualified dependents for victims over 21 years old are spouses, and children under 21, while potential derivatives for immigrant victims (with no U.S. immigration status) under 21 are a spouse, unmarried children under 21, parents, and unmarried siblings under 18.
After-acquired spouse. If you married after you received your U Visa, your spouse can’t get a U-visa through your process. In order to qualify, you must have been married before you applied. But when you apply for a green card (I-485), your spouse could also file by filing the Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant (I-929). However, your spouse can’t be approved until after your I-485 is approved. In addition to proving your relationship with your spouse, you must demonstrate that if the spouse isn’t allowed to stay in the US with you, you will experience “extreme hardship”.
Green Card Requirements for U Visa Holders
If you already got your U Visa application approved, you are eligible to apply for legal permanent residency. Below are the conditions you need to meet when getting a green card:
Continuously present in the US for 3 years. If you are traveling outside the U.S., a trip should not last for 90 days or you should not have been out for a total of 180 days. Although it is best not to travel, if you need to, make sure to document when you left and when you entered and to file for advance parole
Cooperation with Law Enforcement. You must not have unreasonably refused to cooperate when law enforcers are investigating or prosecuting the crime against you. As of July 31, 2019 the USCIS encouraged law enforcement to limit the issuance of these certificates or disavow immigrants who don’t cooperate. Make sure to document each meeting you had with law enforcement to explain how you have been helpful. If you refuse a request to cooperate you will need to explain the reasons.
Justified U.S. presence. Your presence in the US is justified on humanitarian reasons, to ensure family unity, or is in the public interest. Since a green card is a completely discretionary benefit, you must prove that you deserve it. To do so, you will need to show your family ties to the US, achievements, accomplishments, or any reason you or your family would suffer hardship if you returned to your country.
Admissibility. You are not inadmissible to the US because of participation in Nazi persecution, genocide, or extrajudicial killings.
You can apply for a green card through the U visa with guidance from our experienced immigration lawyers at Andres Mejer Law. When you reach out to us regarding green card applications, we look into three things: whether you qualify for a U-visa or green card, whether there is something that can disqualify you, and whether we can fix the client. Since each client can have different circumstances, each visa application can have a different fee.
If you’re wondering how much the process will cost you, our legal representatives will help you determine the amount based on the information you provide about your case. In general, there is an application process to pay for, and additional fees can be added if you need to order documents from immigration or the criminal courts, want to have a background search, need help to become eligible, or planning to bring family members.
Our immigration attorneys offer green card application petitions for U visa holders who acquired their visa through our law firm and even those who already have U visas. Get started in becoming one of the U.S. legal permanent residents by getting a case evaluation from Andres Mejer Law today.