Are you an immigrant who is a victim of a crime? And have you called the police or assisted other law enforcement with information to investigate the crime or prosecute the perpetrators? If so, you might be eligible for a U-Visa. The U-Visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa that allows immigrants to legally live and work in the United States if they are a victim of criminal activity, have assisted law enforcement, and meet some other requirements. Read on to find out if the U visa might be an option for you!
What crimes qualify for a U-Visa?
U-visas are intended for immigrants without immigration status or temporary immigration status who have suffered from physical and/or mental abuses because they were the victims of specific crimes listed by the Department of Homeland Security. These crimes include the following:
If you are a victim of a crime that is not explicitly listed, you can still be eligible for a U-Visa if the crime of which you were a victim, falls under related crimes. “Other related crimes” encompasses any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar to crimes ones listed above. An immigration attorney can help you determine if the crime of which you were a victim can qualify under “other related crimes”.
Requirements for a U-Visa
To obtain a U-Visa, you must meet the following four requirements:
- Be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
- Suffered physically and/or mentally because of the criminal activity;
- Have information about the criminal activity and provided such information to law enforcement and participated in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators; and
- The crime must have happened in the United States.
An applicant MUST meet all these requirements and have adequate documentation to establish their eligibility.
Application for a U-Visa
The application for a U-Visa is a two-step process. First, you MUST obtain a certification from law enforcement to confirm that you were/are/will be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the perpetrator and criminal case in which you were a victim. Once you receive the certification, called the U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, you may then apply for the U-Visa. Therefore, remember, you cannot apply for the U-Visa without first getting the certification from law enforcement.
Benefits of a U-Visa
There are many benefits to the U-Visa for an immigrant. For U-Visa holders, the benefits are as follows:
- You gain temporary legal residence in the U.S for four years. When your status is close to expiring, you can request an extension from USCIS or apply for a Green Card;
- You are authorized to work in the U.S. for the duration of your U-Visa;
- You can enroll in higher education;
- You can obtain a visa for your dependent spouse and your children under 21;
- You can apply for a Green Card three years after having the U-Visa.
It is unfortunate if you are a victim of a crime. However, if you have helped law enforcement you are eligible to apply for a U-Visa no matter the timeline for when the crime occurred. Contact us to get an assessment on your U-Visa eligibility!