The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa category available to certain victims of qualifying crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement agencies in investigating or prosecuting those crimes. The U visa was created to encourage undocumented immigrants to come forward and report crimes, ensuring public safety and providing protection to victims who may fear cooperating with law enforcement due to their immigration status.
Here is an explanation of the U visa process:
Eligibility: To be eligible for a U visa, an individual must meet the following criteria:
- Be a victim of a qualifying crime that occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- Suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime.
- Have information about the crime and be willing to cooperate with law enforcement in its investigation or prosecution.
Certification from Law Enforcement: The first step in the U visa process is to obtain a certification from a qualifying law enforcement agency. This certification, known as Form I-918, Supplement B, must be completed by a law enforcement official, prosecutor, judge, or other designated authority. It confirms that the individual was a victim of a qualifying crime and has been, is being, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.
Application Submission: Once the Form I-918, Supplement B, is obtained, the victim can file the U visa application, Form I-918, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The victim's immediate family members may also be included in the application as derivative U visa applicants.
Cap Limitations: The U visa category has an annual cap of 10,000 visas. If the cap is reached in a fiscal year, any eligible applicants will be placed on a waiting list and granted a "Deferred Action" status, which provides temporary protection against deportation until a U visa becomes available.
Application Processing: USCIS will review the U visa application and may request additional evidence to verify the victim's eligibility. The applicant may be required to attend an interview at a USCIS office. If approved, the U visa will be granted, and the applicant will receive work authorization.
U visa Duration: U visas are initially granted for up to four years. After three years of holding U visa status, the individual may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (green card) if certain conditions are met.
Benefits of the U Visa: U visa holders and their qualifying family members can live and work legally in the United States during the visa validity period. Additionally, U visa holders may be eligible for public benefits and services available to victims of crime.
The U visa process can be complex, and it's essential for victims to seek assistance from legal professionals. The process is designed to protect and support crime victims while ensuring cooperation with law enforcement agencies to enhance public safety. Contact our immigration lawyers today by using the online form or calling us at 210.227.3200. During the consultation, we will listen to your case and move forward with appropriate guidance and legal options.