A U Visa is a special visa that allows an illegal immigrant who was the victim of a crime in the United States to assist law enforcement in bringing the perpetrator to justice while protecting his or her ability to remain in the U.S. free from deportation. Once approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U Visa will allow the immigrant and their immediate family to work and live in the United States, and apply for permanent residency and green card in three years.
This visa category is designed to protect crime victims and their loved ones, but the process of applying is complicated and requires unique experience working with both the criminal and immigration systems. At the Law Office of 360 Immigration Law Group, we provide both thorough legal representation and emotional support to victims and their families while they pursue these non-immigrant visas.
WHAT IS A U VISA?
In 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. This law’s purpose was strengthening law enforcement’s ability to pursue criminals involved in human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes. Lawmakers realized that in order to build trust with immigrant communities and to protect witnesses, the U visa program was a vital and necessary tool for law enforcement.
If your U visa application is approved, it is valid for up to four years. During this time, you can legally live and work in the United States. After three years, most U visa holders can apply for their green card and obtain legal permanent residency. A U visa can also cover the crime victim’s family members. If you are 21 years old or older, your U visa application can also include your spouse and children. If you are under the age of 21, your petition can include your spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings who are under the age of 18.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A U VISA?
There are six requirements that must be met in order to meet eligibility:
- The applicant was a victim of a qualifying crime;
- The applicant suffered substantial physical, emotional, or mental abuse;
- The victim can provide credible information regarding the crime;
- The crime occurred in the U.S. or otherwise violated U.S. laws;
- The victim must fully cooperate with law enforcement and provide information during the investigation and prosecution of the crime;
- Under current U.S. immigration laws and regulations, the applicant is admissible to the U.S. (If they are not admissible, they may apply for a waiver.)
The list of covered crimes is extensive and includes aggravated assault, abduction, blackmail and extortion, domestic violence, sexual assault, manslaughter and murder, prostitution, as well as kidnapping and human trafficking. Other related crimes include the attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation of any of these crimes, or similar activity where the elements of the crime are very similar.
However, these are only some of the crimes that qualify under a U visa. The list is extensive
Even people who have criminal records or have violated immigration laws might be eligible for a U visa. Even if an individual has entered the country illegally or has a criminal record which renders them “inadmissible” to the United States, there might be a way forward with a waiver. The U visa process is one of the most complex cases for immigrants. Because so much is at stake, it’s always best to consult with an immigration lawyer before starting the waiver process.
If you need help understanding whether you’re eligible for a U visa, consult with our experienced immigration lawyer at the Law Office of 360 Immigration Law Group.
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