What are the benefits of a U Visa?
A U Visa is a temporary visa available for immigrant victims of serious crimes in the U.S. who have suffered significant physical harm or significant emotional or psychological harm as a result of the criminal activity. The victim must also have provided information, assistance and cooperated with law enforcement or government officials during the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If an immigrant’s U visa is approved, the immigrant will receive a temporary visa to remain and legally work in the U.S. for a period of four years. After the immigrant has had U Visa status for a period of three years, he or she can file an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) (green card).
Who qualifies as a victim?
A victim can be a direct victim or an indirect victim. If you are a direct victim of a serious crime it is easier to prove that you are a victim for U Visa purposes because a direct victim is usually the person who was the target of the crime or the person that suffered a direct harm due to the criminal activity. However, proving that you are an indirect victim is not always easy. An indirect victim can be a bystander or a witness who suffered extreme physical or emotional/psychological harm due to the criminal activity. An indirect victim can also be a parent of a child under the age of 21 who was a victim of a serious crime, or family members of an individual who died as a result of the criminal activity regardless if the direct victim was a U.S. citizen. Under these circumstances, indirect victims are the direct victim’s spouse; and the direct victim’s unmarried children under 21 years old. If the direct victim is under 21 years old, his/her parents and minor siblings under the age of 18 may also be considered indirect victims.
Helpful tips regarding U Visa applications
- If you did not suffer physical harm but have suffered emotional or psychological harm due to the criminal activity, it is recommended that you seek assistance from a licensed mental health professional. This is not only beneficial for your overall well-being, but a written diagnosis from your mental health provider, that details information about your treatment and proof of continuous treatment is a helpful piece of evidence that can be submitted in support of your U Visa application.
- Make sure to remain in contact with law enforcement and government officials who are investigating and prosecuting the criminal activity. If you move or change your phone number, you should also notify these officials of any changes. This is especially important because one of the requirements when applying for a green card after a U Visa approval is to submit a new signed law enforcement certification confirming that you have remained helpful to their investigation and/or prosecution.
- Seek assistance from your local victim assistance office. These offices can assist you in obtaining reimbursement/compensation for out of pocket costs you suffered as a result of the criminal activity. Some out of pocket costs that are routinely reimbursed are: medical and/or mental health costs and in certain situations loss of wages.
- Make sure that you send Form I-192 (Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant) with your U Visa application. This form will allow you to apply for a waiver/forgiveness of factors that may disqualify from obtaining a green card in the future i.e. entering the U.S. without documents, remaining in the U.S. without documents, working in the U.S. without legal authorization, and having committed certain crimes.
- Keep a journal of what you remember about the crime, and what you experienced and suffered as a result of the criminal activity. Your journal will help you when you write the personal statement that is submitted with your U Visa application, and will also allow you to better assist law enforcement and government officials.
Make sure you submit a well prepared U Visa application
A U visa has great benefits that can extend to certain family member even if they are outside of the U.S. Also, depending on your financial circumstances, you may also qualify to receive a fee waiver from having to pay the $585.00 filing fee for Form I-192 that is routinely filed with a U Visa application. And, one of the most significant benefits is that a U Visa provides a path to obtain a green card. Therefore it is essential that you submit a complete and well prepared U Visa application to ensure that your rights are fully protected. When you work with our office, we make sure that your U Visa application includes all of the evidence necessary to receive an approval. U Visa applications usually have long wait times for an approval because there are only 10,000 U Visas available per year. While you are waiting for a U Visa to become available our office can also take extra steps to assist you with obtaining a temporary work permit. Our office will provide you with the compassion and attention your case deserves and will help you from the beginning to the end.