Many immigrants have heard about the path to a green card through a u nonimmigrant status. A u nonimmigrant status is available to victims of certain qualifying crimes, who suffered mental and physical harm due to this crime, and who were helpful in assisting law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.
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).
Every year, thousands of foreign individuals living in the United States suffer substantial mental and physical abuse at the hands of a U.S. perpetrator, oftentimes the victim’s own spouse or family member. At the turn of the 21st century, Congress, recognizing the scope and depth of the problem, implemented The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. Signed into law by President Clinton, the act was design to ensure “just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.” One key provision in the act concerns the U-Visa and how it works to provide shelter to those who have been abused and taken advantage of by international crime rings.
U-visas were created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. They allow foreign victims of crimes in the United States to remain in the country while assisting law enforcement officials to apprehend and prosecute criminals. Individuals who are the victims of serious crimes in the United States may pursue a U-visa to remain here for up to four years, after which they may apply for permanent residence.
However, simply stating that you are the victim of a crime is not enough to secure a U-visa. Applicants must obtain a "certificate of helpfulness" from a qualifying government agency, such as local law enforcement, and they must prove that they suffered mental or physical abuse. Not all victims of crimes qualify. Some applicants may be considered inadmissible because of past immigration violations. They may still qualify for a U-visa, but they will have to obtain a waiver first.
The U-Visa program is for victims of certain crimes who wish to work and live in the United States. It is a nonimmigrant visa that is specifically intended for victims and their families. Once approved, the applicant will automatically have work eligibility in the United States for up to four years. This program provides a great opportunity for victims of serious crimes, but not all victims qualify and there are a limited number of visas available.
If you are the victim of a crime and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse because of criminal activity, you should contact our office immediately to discuss your case with an experienced and compassionate immigration attorney. As part of the application process, you must prove that you were the victim of a serious crime such as rape, torture, domestic violence, false imprisonment, kidnapping, extortion, or a number of other offenses.
Being a victim of crime is not the only criterion for U-visas. You must also assist government officials in the investigation and prosecution of the individual or individuals that committed the crime. You must work with local law enforcement and the crime must have been committed within the United States or a U.S. territory.
A U-visa [technically called U Nonimmigrant Status] allows you to get on a path to citizenship and avoid deportation if you are the victim of a serious crime and aid law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution. Only certain types of crimes qualify for such visas and often, you'll find that you need the help of law enforcement officials during the process of applying for such a visa. Having an attorney help you navigate this process is essential.
An important part of the process is proving that you are aiding an investigation or did aid one. You will need an affidavit called a Certification of Helpfulness signed by a law enforcement agency. This form is proof that you cooperated not only in the investigation but also in the prosecution of the crime.
Our client was a nice, humble man who seemingly had no hope for his immigration situation. He desperately wanted to bring a family member of his from Guatemala but he did not himself have any legal standing to do so. So he lived his life quietly, stayed away from trouble and attended church frequently. One day, as he was picking up a friend, someone tried to carjack him. This terrifying moment lasted only a few seconds. The man reached into the car with a small knife and tried to pull our client out of the car. Our client resisted, got a small cut on his hand, and sped off.
Another victim of crime comes to our office, another U visa granted. Our client received his U visa in August and his work permit (one day later). Our client came in because he had some vague idea that a petition had been filed for him many years prior, but he didn’t have any of the documentation. We investigated it but could not find anything. But, in our thorough intake process, we found out that he had been stabbed in a bar in an unprovoked attack by a drunk psycho. This was -- as you can imagine -- a very disturbing incident for our client. Though he was released from the hospital the same day, he continues to have flashbacks and flinches when people move around him rapidly or unexpectedly.