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.
Any foreign citizen who is currently living in the United States may apply for a U-visa if able to provide substantial evidence that he or she:
- Was the victim of a qualifying criminal activity in the United States? There are many crimes that qualify including violent crimes, enslavement crimes, sexual crimes and fraud in foreign labor contracting.
- Suffered substantial physical or mental abuse. A medical professional may be needed to evaluate the damages suffered during the crime.
- Has useful information about the crime. In order to receive a U-visa, applicants must have information that aids the investigation.
- Is helpful to law enforcement. Simply reporting the crime is not enough. Applicants must cooperate with law enforcement to apprehend and convict the criminal.
- Are admissible to the United States. Applicants must fill out a Form I-192, the Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
If successful, applicants may also receive derivative U-visas for family members. This includes the victim's unmarried children under the age of 21, spouse, parents and unmarried siblings under the age of 18 if the principal is under 21. Anyone interested in obtaining more information about getting a U-visa would be well advised to discuss his or her options with an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney.