If you have been a victim of a serious crime in the United States and are looking for immigration relief, then applying for a U visa may be a possible remedy for you. Being a victim of a crime doesn't guarantee a U visa, however. There are several requirements you need to meet and the procedures you need to follow before you can qualify.
This article gives a background on U visas and how to obtain one.
What Is a U Visa?
Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa (U visa) in 2000 to encourage noncitizens to cooperate with law enforcement if they are victims of a serious crime. The U visa allows victims and qualifying family members to stay in the United States for four years. Extensions are possible, and U visa holders may be able to apply for green cards/permanent residence after three years.
How Do I Know If I Qualify for a U Visa?
You need to satisfy the following requirements to qualify for a U visa:
- You must have been a victim of a qualifying crime; you must also have suffered substantial abuse as a result of the crime
- You must have valuable information regarding the crime
- You must assist in the investigation and prosecution of the crime
- The crime must have happened in the U.S and be illegal under U.S. laws
Unlike many visas, you do not have to be present in the U.S to qualify for the U visa. You may, however, have to submit additional documents and follow different procedures if you are currently outside of the country.
What Procedure Should I Follow When I Apply for a U Visa?
The first thing you need to do is to fill out the Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. Then, you need to submit Form I-918 signed by an authorized official confirming that you have cooperated with law enforcement.
Additional documents you might need include:
- Your personal statement describing the crime and how it affected you. This must be detailed.
- Other relevant evidence that show you are eligible for the U visa
- If you are inadmissible to the U.S., you will also need to file a I-601 waiver. The waiver cost is $585. But if you don't have an income, you can ask for the government to waive the fees by filling out the I-912 fee waiver form.
What Are the Benefits of a U Visa?
A U visa has several benefits. It allows you to stay in the U.S for four years and could be a path to a green card if you fulfill certain requirements. You can also apply for employment authorization once your application is approved.
Finally, you can petition for qualifying family members to get derivative U visas.
U Visas and Work Permits
Getting the actual U visa may take years as the government only gives 10,000 visas every year. However, this doesn't mean you won't have any benefits while you are waiting for your visa.
While your case is pending, you can't apply for employment authorization. However, when your application is approved, your status will change to what is known as a "deferred action" until your visa is issued.
Once your application is approved and you are in deferred action, you will qualify for a work permit.
Are There Application Fees for a U Visa?
There is no application fee to file a U visa application. But you will need to pay for subsequent applications like inadmissibility waivers and adjustment of status.
Can I Bring My Family to the U.S Once I Get the Visa?
If your U visa application is approved, you may be eligible to bring family members with you. If you are under 21, you can bring your parents, your spouse, your unmarried children who are under 21, and your unmarried siblings under 18.
If you are over 21, however, your parents and siblings are not eligible to be your derivatives.
Think You Have a U-Visa Claim? Consult With an Attorney to Start the Process
Being a victim of a crime is traumatizing, especially if you don't have an immigration status in the U.S. Congress has created a way where you can get immigration benefits if you come forward and cooperate with law enforcement. But the U visa application process is complicated. It is worth your time to consult an immigration attorney to get help throughout the process.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.