U-Visa for qualifying crime victims
U-Visas are available to certain crime victims. For someone who meets all qualifications the U-Visa is a pathway to lawful permanent residence (a green card) and then to U.S. citizenship.
To be eligible for a U-Visa all of the following must be true:
- You are the victim of a crime. That crimes needs to be one of the categories for U-Visa designated crimes. See the list below.
- You suffered “substantial physical or mental harm” as a result of the crime.
- You have information about the crime.
- You were helpful to a law enforcement investigation off the crime.
- The Crime occurred in the US or violated US laws.
What crimes qualify?
To form the basis of a U-Visa petition, you must have been a victim of one of the following crimes:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other Related Crimes
How do you apply for a U-Visa?
The first step in a successful U-Visa application is pursuing a Law Enforcement Certification. Remember that to qualify for a U-Visa you must have been “helpful” to a law enforcement investigation of the qualifying crime. To meet this requirement you must receive an official certification from the law enforcement agency of your cooperation. Each law enforcement agency has its own procedures for how these certifications are obtained.
After the certification is obtained, the next step is the prepare the Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. The nature of the crime must be documented, along with the type of harm that you suffered. We would typically submit medical records of any physical harm caused by the crime. In other cases we may use a psychological evaluation to show the impact of the crime.
Often a U-Visa petitioner will require a waiver, which can be thought of as a pardon. For example, if the individual entered the country illegally she may require a waiver. This is a complex additional part of the application process that requires us to tell the story of all the positive aspects of the person’s life.
Currently there is a long waiting line for U-Visas. It is realistic to anticipate that a U-Visa petition will take well over one year to be approved. But the good news is that an individual can apply for work authorization in the meanwhile (see below). Even after the U-Visa is approved the individual must wait three additional years before she is able to apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card).