Are you living and working in the United States as a non-citizen, and were you or your qualifying family members the victim of a crime? If so, you may be able to obtain a type of visa, called a U nonimmigrant visa (U visa), that will allow you and your qualifying family members to remain in the United States while you work cooperatively with law enforcement and government officials to investigate or prosecute the criminal activity.
If you or your qualifying family members — your loved ones — were the victims of criminal activity in the United States, you should speak with a dedicated Lexington immigration lawyer like those at CF Abogados. They will discuss your case with you and help determine if you and your loved ones qualify for a U visa.
What is the U Visa?
In 2000, U.S. Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (the Act), creating the U visa. The U visa was created to provide humanitarian relief to crime victims, living in the United States without lawful status, which provide assistance to the authorities in prosecuting the crime.
Congress limited the number of U visas that can be issued each fiscal year (October 1 to September 30) to 10,000. Anyone applying for a U visa after the limit is reached is placed on a waiting list and action is deferred. Those on the waiting list and those in interim status — awaiting adjudication of their U visa petition — are eligible to receive employment authorization (i.e., a work permit).
If the U visa petition is favorably adjudicated, the U visa petitioner and their derivatives are given permission to live and work in the United States. After three years of U visa status, a petitioner and their derivatives may adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Qualifying family members of the petitioner who were not given derivative U visa status may also apply for LPR status.
Today, U visa petitions are adjudicated by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
How Does Someone Qualify for a U Visa?
A person must meet the following four requirements to be eligible for a U visa:
- The person must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as the result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
- the person must have information about that criminal activity;
- the person must have been helpful, is currently being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
- the criminal activity violated laws of the United States.
To be a qualifying crime, the crime must have occurred in the United States.
There are several types of “qualifying criminal activity”—an activity involving one or more actions that violate U.S. criminal law—including:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Felonious assault
- Human trafficking
- Sexual assault
- Unlawful criminal restraint
The non-citizen victims of these crimes often do not report them to law enforcement agencies for fear of being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and removed (i.e., deported). The U visa was created to help victims of these crimes and law enforcement agencies tasked with protecting all victims regardless of immigration status. If you are a victim of a qualifying crime, the immigration law firm of CF Abogados is dedicated to helping you obtain a U visa.
How Can a Victim Get a U Visa, and What Happens Afterwards?
To be eligible for a U visa, a victim must have a “certification of helpfulness” from a certifying agency. Certifying agencies are federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges or other authorities that investigate or prosecute criminal activity. In some instances, agencies like child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor can also qualify as certifying agencies because they conduct criminal investigations. Whatever agency the victim is working with must certify that the victim is cooperating in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity.
It is even possible for non-citizen victims to petition for the U visa from outside the United States. If the victim is not allowed to enter the United States as a foreign national, the victim must obtain a waiver of inadmissibility by submitting an application for advance permission to enter as a nonimmigrant to USCIS.
Once a person obtains a U visa, it is possible for them to apply for a green card (i.e., LPR status) if they meet the following qualifications:
- They must have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of their admission under the U visa;
- they must not have unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since receiving the U visa; and
- the certifying agency must determine that the victim’s continued presence in the United States is justified on humanitarian grounds to ensure continuation of a cohesive family, or is otherwise in national or public interest.
Qualifying family members of the victim may also apply for green cards, either because they hold a derivative U visa (obtained when the victim obtained the U visa), or even if they have never held a derivative U visa, if:
- The qualifying family member was never admitted to the United States under a U visa, and
- It can be established that either the family member or the U visa applicant would suffer extreme hardship if the qualifying family member were not allowed to remain in or be admitted to the United States.
Is There Help Available for a Victim Applying for a U Visa?
There certainly is. If you are in the United States without status, you have been the victim of a qualifying criminal activity, and you believe your knowledge could help law enforcement put the criminals behind bars, you need to talk with the dedicated Kentucky immigration lawyers at CF Abogados today.
The criminal activity you have been victimized by needs to be stopped before you or your loved ones are harmed any further, and before other noncitizens are harmed. Please give CF Abogados a call today at (859) 971-0060 or fill out their online contact form to GET HELP NOW.