The United States is a country that plays host to great things and people. However, its relative prosperity makes it attractive to many types of criminals, including human traffickers and others who cause innocents great degrees of harm. If you are a victim of a crime, and you are in the U.S. or you were the victim of someone breaking U.S. laws, you may be entitled to immigration benefits if you assist law enforcement in their pursuit of your attacker.
United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) lays out several criteria that must be met in order for you to possibly be eligible for a U visa, which is the type granted to crime victims. Some include:
Several crimes ‘qualify’ their victims for potential U visas, with a list present on the USCIS website. The most common include human trafficking, kidnapping, false imprisonment and sexual violence, but there are many others, and if you can present sufficient evidence that you have been a victim of one or more of these violations, you may be eligible for a U visa. In the case of trafficking victims, it may also be possible, alternatively, to obtain a T visa, which is specifically intended for victims of trafficking.
In broad terms, the procedure for obtaining a U visa is roughly the same as for any other nonimmigrant visa - the applicant submits the relevant documents and supporting evidence, and receives a reply from USCIS or from the relevant consulate abroad, depending on where the person applies for the visa. It is important to note that one of the documents required is a statement from the law enforcement official handling the investigation into your victimization - they must complete the supplemental form to go along with the U application, stating that you have been an active and helpful participant in the investigation - without this, you will likely not be considered. If accepted, a U visa lasts four years and allows applications for work permits.
Be advised that unlike many other nonimmigrant visas, a U visa cannot be extended unless it is due to either the investigation continuing to need your presence or to clerical errors or delays in processing your visa. Technically, a U visa may also be extended if you as a holder decide to adjust status to lawful permanent residence (green card holder), but this is an adjustment of status, rather than an extension of the original visa.
Ask An Immigration Attorney
Being the victim of a crime can be enough to ruin a life, but it can help immeasurably to know that you can do something concrete to help fight back. If you have questions about applying for a U visa, the Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can assist. We have years of experience in these types of cases and are happy to put that experience to work for you. Call us today to set up a free initial consultation.
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