What is a U Visa?
Congress created the U Visa through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. The purpose of the U Visa is to encourage immigrants, who are victims of crimes to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime that they were victim to without having to be fearful of any negative immigration consequences due to their cooperation.
A U Visa is available to a foreign national individual who was a victim of a qualifying crime in the United States and was helpful to authorities in the investigation of the crime. Family members, such as an applicant’s spouse, children, unmarried sibling less than 21 years of age, and parents of an applicant under the age of 16 may receive derivative U Visa Status through their relative. If granted a U visa, the individual is granted status for a maximum period of four years. The victim of a crime must have suffered mentally and/or physically from the crime.
Who Qualifies for a U-Visa?
In order to qualify for a U Visa, the individual has to have suffered physical or mental abuse through the result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity. The individual must have information concerning the crime in regards to what happened, who was involved, and what led up to the crime. The individual needs to have been of help to police enforcement. Then, the law enforcement agency will sign a form saying that the applicant was helpful. The crime needs to have taken place in the United States and violated the laws of the United States. In order to qualify, the applicant has not committed any immigration or legal violations, OR they qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility based on the violations they have committed. The applicant’s good factors must weigh more than his/her violations. The applicant must also show that he/she would suffer if their U-Visa is not approved.
What is Defined as a “Criminal Activity”?
The crime needs to have violated the criminal laws of the United States.
Furthermore, the crime needs to be listed in the U Visa law; some examples of this include: felonious assault, rape, murder, torture, kidnapping, domestic violence, sexual assault, blackmail, sexual exploitation, abusive sexual contact, being held hostage, and many more.
What are the Benefits of a U Visa?
The U Visa has many benefits. Once an individual is granted a U Visa, any of their removal or deportation proceedings in which the government is trying to deport or remove the individual will be cancelled. The individual can legally live in the United States for four years. After three years of being a U-Visa holder, the individual can apply for a green card. The individual is also eligible for Cal WORKs and full-scope Medi-Cal. The individual can get permission to work in the United States through a legal work permit.
Also, the individual has the possibility of travelling outside of the United States for three months or less.
Can Family Members of the Main Applicant also Benefit from the U-Visa?
Yes. When an individual applies for a U-Visa, they can also petition for qualifying family members. If the principle applicant is under 21 years of age, they may petition for their spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under the age of 18. If the principle applicant is 21 years of age or older, they may only petition for their spouse as well as their children.
How Long Does the U-Visa Last?
If granted a U-Visa, the individual will be able to work legally in the United States and will also have legal status in the United States for four years. After three years of U-Visa status, the individual will be able to apply for lawful permanent residence, better known as a green card.
Can a Person Outside of the United States apply for a U-Visa?
Yes, a person outside of the United States can apply for a U-Visa. However, this individual must have been a victim of a crime in the United States. The main applicant will file the U-Visa with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country.
Is there a limit on the number of U-Visas approved each year?
Immigration cannot grant more than 10,000 U-Visas each year. It is important to note that this limit does not apply to derivative applicants; the 10,000 only consists of main applicants. Once the cap is reached, immigration will create a waiting list for any applicants that are left. These individuals that are on the waiting list will be given deferred action while they are on the waiting list. This means that these individuals will qualify to apply for employment authorization or they will qualify to travel until the results of their U-Visa are released the following year.
Our office has years of experience with U Visas. If you or a loved one was a victim of a crime, please contact our office.
For more information on the U-Visa: