Many individuals are unfamiliar with U visas and are unsure about how and why they are awarded. However, if you are unlucky enough to be the victim of a crime, you may be able to apply for one. Moreover, f you consent to help with the prosecution of your attackers, you may be able to remain in the United States even if you entered without inspection. It is important, though, to be aware of the requirements for a U visa before you begin the application process, especially in recent weeks. Given the current flux in the U.S. immigration system, it is not implausible to think that regulations may change in the future.
Restrictions & Requirements
The U visa is granted to victims of certain crimes, such as human trafficking, prostitution, violent assault, domestic violence, and several others. A person generally has a higher likelihood of being granted a U visa if he or she has been the victim of a crime in which he or she suffered severe abuse (mental or physical), but there are a host of crimes for which one may be considered for a visa. The single most important criteria is that you, as a victim, must be willing and able to assist U.S. law enforcement in attempting to prosecute the people who harmed you. The requirements specifically state that you are “helpful, or likely to be helpful” in the prosecution of your attacker.
There are other criteria that a U visa applicant must meet, in addition to having information regarding the crime of which you were a victim. One must have been victimized under U.S. law, suffering tangible abuse, but one must also be admissible to the United States. Admissibility is a standard met by immigrants who enter the country at an inspection point—someone who has been declared to meet all the requirements for entry under U.S. law. If you are not admissible, it is possible to obtain a waiver for many grounds (for example, if you previously accrued unlawful presence or committed a minor crime in the country), though not all.
Unlike most standard non-immigrant visa petitions, an application for a U visa requires verification from outside sources before it can move forward in processing. The petition must come with a Form I-918, which in turn must be certified by the relevant officer of the law enforcement agency (state or otherwise) that is handling the case that involves the petitioner. It is also worth noting that if you as the petitioner ever stop cooperating with law enforcement, it is possible for the U visa certification to be rescinded or invalidated.
If your petition is approved, you will be granted an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) so that you may work legally. After at least three years in country (during which you must continue to assist law enforcement), you will be permitted to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR, or “green card” holder).
It is also important to keep in mind that issuance of the U visa is limited by law to 10,000 in any given fiscal year. Thus, the timing of your case matters—depending on the date, the quota for that year may be filled before your petition is prepared. If this occurs, it may be a good idea to contact a knowledgeable attorney to decide how to proceed.
An Immigration Attorney Can Help
Survivors are perhaps the most important witnesses that law enforcement can have when attempting to track down criminals, especially in situations where the crime in question might occur multiple times. If you are one, you may be able to help put your attacker behind bars. Additionally, because this is such an important objective, the U.S. government may reward you. If you have U visa questions or issues, consulting the passionate Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can make all the difference. Contact our office today to set up a free consultation.
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