The Process for Obtaining a U Visa

Like the T visa, the U visa was created when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. As immigration attorneys can explain, like the T visa, the U visa is available to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation and prosecution of those crimes. Law enforcement can mean prosecutors, federal agents and the police. One of the intended purposes of the U visa is to provide an incentive for victims of crimes to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement without fear of deportation or other immigration punishments. However, the U visa deals with a wider range of criminal activity than the T visa does, so more individuals are potential eligible for a U visa. Whether you are eligible for a U visa and are exploring the U visa process consult with your immigration lawyer or attorney to ascertain whether a U visa is something you can secure to remain in the United States.

U Visa Eligibility

To be eligible to obtain a U visa, the following requirements must be met:

  • The individual must be the direct or indirect victim of a qualifying criminal activity,

  • The criminal activity must be a violation of US laws, whether or not it occurred on U.S. soil,

  • As the victim of criminal activity, the individual must have suffered severe physical or psychological harm as a result of the criminal activity,

  • The individual must have information about the criminal activity and be willing to provide that information to law enforcement to investigate or prosecute the crime,

  • The individuals must be otherwise admissible to the United States. However, a waiver may be available for certain individuals.

Family members of the principal U visa petitioner (the individual who was the direct or indirect victim of the crime) may also be eligible to obtain a “derivative” U visa. Eligible family members include:

  • Children under the age 21 who are unmarried
  • Spouse
  • Parents (only possible if the U visa petitioner is also under the age of 21)
  • Sibling under the age of 18 who are unmarried (only possible if the U visa petitioner is also under the age of 21)
What Constitutes a “Qualifying Criminal Activity?”

For the most part, any serious crime will be considered a “qualifying criminal activity.” Types of crimes that US immigration officials would consider a qualifying criminal activity include:

  • Kidnapping
  • Blackmail or Jxtortion
  • Domestic violence
  • Most sex crimes, such as Rape, Sexual exploitation and Prostitution
  • Perjury
  • Murder, including manslaughter
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Torture
  • Human trafficking
  • Felonious assault

This is not an exhaustive list, but gives an idea of the types of crimes that would qualify for a U visa. Lastly, even if the crime wasn’t fully completed, such as an attempted murder, an individual can still be the victim of a qualifying criminal activity. Discuss the factors of your victimization with an immigration attorney experienced in the U visa process to determine the likelihood you could secure such a visa.

What’s Difference Between a Direct and Indirect Victim?

A direct victim is what it sounds like – a victim who directly suffered as a result of the criminal activity. For example, if you were kidnapped, you would be considered a direct victim.

An indirect victim is someone who wasn’t the direct victim of a crime, but due to the fact that the victim is dead, incompetent (under the age of 21) or incapacitated, another person is allowed to request a U visa as the indirect victim.

In cases where the victim is under the age of 21, parents or unmarried siblings under the age of 18 would qualify as an indirect victim. Indirect victims can also include the victim’s spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21.

U Visa Application Process

The first step in the U visa application process is completing Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. When Form I-918 is submitted, an accompanying form, Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certificate must be submitted at the same time. This second form certifies the applicant is a victim of a crime and has, is or will be providing assistance to law enforcement in the investigation of the crime.

If a qualifying family member of a victim (principal U visa petitioner) would also like to obtain a U visa, the principal U visa petitioner will need to complete Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient.

Form I-918, Form I-918, Supplement A and Form I-918, Supplement B do not require a fee for filing, although there may be a fee for filing accompanying forms or documents. Additionally, all three of these forms must be submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) center located in Vermont. US embassies and consulates will not accept these forms.

The next step involves getting fingerprinted. If the principal U visa petitioner or qualifying family members are located in the United States, the fingerprinting can take place at the nearest USCIS center. If the principal U visa petitioner or qualifying family members are located outside the United States, and there is no USCIS center in their home country, the fingerprinting will need to take place at a US embassy or consulate.

A personal interview will then take place at a US embassy or consulate for individuals or family members located outside the United States. During this interview, a consular officer will ensure the individual is eligible to receive a U visa. Once this interview is completed, the individual should learn if the U visa will be approved or not. If it is approved, the U visa can be picked up at a later time or delivered to the individual.

A U visa is generally valid for four years. During this time, the U visa holder must continue to reasonably cooperate with all requests for assistance by law enforcement into the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. After three years, if certain conditions are met, the U visa holder will be eligible to apply for a Green Card.

Is There a U Visa Waiting List?

The limit on the number of U visas that may be issued is 10,000 per year. However, this limit does not apply to qualifying family members who obtain a derivative U visa. If the 10,000 limit is reached, a petitioner may be placed on a waiting list. As a result, getting a U visa can easily take over a year from start to finish.

You May Be a Victim, but You Can Remain in the United States Legally

Nobody should have to suffer as a victim of a crime. Those immigrants residing in the United States should not have the double misfortune of being unable to legally reside in New York or elsewhere. Stand up against victimization and pursue your legal rights. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. Seize good from what is a horrific experience. Apply for a U visa and allow the system to work for you. Retain experienced immigration lawyers to protect you and your family so that a Green Card is something that one day you may be able to achieve.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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