Knowing in detail what the U visa is and the requirements to obtain it can be a key element to support the case of victims of certain crimes. This visa can make victims of physical or mental abuse feel more confident about moving forward. This relief may be available for you even when you don’t have a legal immigration status.
This guide is mainly focused on explaining the full list of U visa requirements. If you are a victim of crimes in the US, contact our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles so they can help you face this terrible situation.
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Table of Contents
What Is The United States U Visa and what are the requirements In 2023
The U nonimmigrant visa is meant only for alien nationals who are victims of certain crimes involving substantial mental or physical abuse in the United States.
In addition, this visa also helps law enforcement agencies in the investigation or prosecution of cases of sexual abuse, domestic violence, alien smuggling and other crimes.
Have you been a victim of battery or assault with a deadly weapon in the US? Contact us immediately! Our immigration lawyers are also Los Angeles criminal lawyers willing to help you in these cases of violence.
What Is The U Visa For?
The U visa serves to help victims of certain crimes that have occurred in the United States. The purpose of this visa is to encourage crime victims to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes without fear of being deported from the United States.
If you came to the United States as a victim of human trafficking, you may be eligible for T status. In our article “T visa requirements” you can find extensive information about this immigration relief.
U Visa Limitations
- It is a temporary visa. U visas only last a few years and although their validity can be extended, it requires the support of a certifying agency;
- They have an annual emission limit. Only 10,000 U visas can be issued each year, so applicants must wait until new availability;
- Risks of traveling abroad. Individuals with U visas run the risk of not being able to re-enter the country if they travel abroad;
- The criminal record of the applicant. The criminal history of the individual can complicate the U visa application process.
Do you have or do you suspect you have a criminal record? Don’t worry! Our criminal attorneys can help you clean up your criminal record.
What Benefits Does The U Visa Have?
Some of the benefits that aliens can get by obtaining an approved U visa are:
- Remain legally in the United States for 4 years;
- Work legally through an Employment Authorization Document (EAD);
- Eligibility to adjust status to lawful permanent resident and get a Green Card after 3 years in the US;
- Possibility of bringing to the US family members who have not been victims of the crime;
- Protection from deportation (unless the beneficiary commits crimes or immigration violations subsequent to obtaining the U visa).
What Crimes Does The U Visa Waive?
The U visa is designed to protect victims of certain crimes, but you may not be admissible to the US In this case, you can apply for a type of immigration waiver of inadmissibility. Among the crimes and procedures that can be waived through a U visa we find the following:
- Minor offences;
- Fraud for wanting to enter the US with false documents or documentation from other individuals;
- Impersonating a US citizen;
- Return to the US after voluntary departure;
- Unlawful presence in the US.
What Crimes Does The U Visa Not Waive?
If you have participated in genocide, Nazi persecution, or any act of torture or extrajudicial killing, you become inadmissible and will not be able to obtain a Green Card. USCIS cannot waive this ground or provide any other form of assistance.
If you engage in an act that is found to be inadmissible, USCIS will take that information into account when making a decision on your Green Card application.
If you want to know more about deportable offenses, visit our article dedicated to this type of criminal acts.
How To Qualify For The U Visa In 2023
Aliens who qualify for the U visa are those who have primarily been victims of a crime in the US. If you have experienced such a scenario, you may be eligible for U status in the following cases:
- You have been the victim of a qualifying criminal act;
- You suffered physical or mental abuse due to the criminal act;
- The crime occurred on US soil or violated US law;
- You have information about the criminal activity that has occurred. If you are under 16 or unable to provide information because of a disability, your parent, legal representative, or guardian can help officers on your behalf;
- You were helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement agencies in the criminal investigation or prosecution of the criminal act. If she is under the age of 16 or has a disability, her parent, legal representative, or guardian may provide such assistance on her behalf;
- You are admissible to the United States. If not, you may be eligible to apply for a Form I-192, Application for Advance Parole to Enter as a nonimmigrant.
Crimes That Qualify For The U Visa
The following are some of the crimes that can qualify a person for the U visa:
- Obstruction of justice;
- Assault with a weapon;
- Hostage taking;
- Blackmail and extortion of the victim;
- Unlawful detention or kidnapping;
- Sexual assault;
- Involuntary manslaughter;
- Witness tampering;
- Incest and mutilation of female genitalia;
- Fraud and exploitation of alien workers;
- Involuntary servitude;
- Torture and slavery;
- Forced labor;
- Human trafficking;
- Domestic violence;
- Slave trade;
- Conspiracy attempt.
As we mentioned before, these are some of the crimes in which you can qualify for the U visa. In addition, any activity similar to the elements mentioned or any request to commit any of the mentioned crimes is included.
What Is The Price Of The U Visa In 2023?
The U visa is free of charge, so it can be applied for free. However, there are cases in which the applicant’s relatives must file Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Relative of a U-1 Nonimmigrant, which does cost $230.
If the relative is unable to pay this fee, they may be able to file a Form I-912, Petition for Fee Waiver.
How To Get The U Visa In 2023
To apply for a U visa, you must go to USCIS and follow these steps:
- File Form I-918 , petition for U nonimmigrant status;
- Submit Form I-918, Supplement B, Certification of U Nonimmigrant Status signed by an authorized law enforcement officer. There you confirm that you have contributed or will contribute to the investigation or criminal prosecution of the case;
- If you have inadmissibility issues, file Form I-192;
- Offer a statement on your part describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim.
Request If You Are Outside The US
You can also apply for a U visa if you are outside of the United States. To do this, you must follow these steps:
- Submit all required forms for the U visa application;
- Follow all applicable instructions, including your biometrics at your nearest US embassy or consulate;
- If your petition is approved, go through consular processing at a US embassy or consulate to enter the US.
You can find information about the US embassies or consulates closest to you through the following link .
Request By Family Members
Qualifying family members applying for a derivative U visa must:
- Complete Form I-918 Supplement A;
- Victims under the age of 21 can apply for a derivative visa for parents, spouse, and unmarried siblings under the age of 18;
- Victims over the age of 21 can apply for a spouse and child visa.
Derivative Visas For Relatives
The U status has its derivative visas for the relatives of the holder, therefore, this visa is broken down as follows according to the visa:
- U-2. Spouse of the U-1 visa holder;
- U-3. Unmarried children under the age of 18 of the U-1 nonimmigrant;
- U-4. Parents of incumbent U-1;
- U-5. Unmarried siblings under the age of 18 of the headline U-1.
How Long Does It Take For The U Visa To Be Approved?
Getting a U visa can take years from the day you apply. Currently, the approximate waiting time to find out if this visa is approved is more or less 5 years.
Either way, USCIS maintains an online portal with up-to-date estimates regarding the processing time for most applications. One reason the U visa process is so long is because the government only issues around 10,000 a year.
After The U Visa, What is Next?
If you have finally obtained the U visa, you will immediately receive a work permit valid for 4 years. However, in extraordinary cases you may be able to extend your U status for more than 4 years, but only if the additional time is really necessary due to a:
- Request by a law enforcement agency;
- Exceptional circumstances;
- Situation of delays in consular processing;
- Automatic extension for filing and processing an application for adjustment of status.
Please note that after you have served 3 years in the US you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card.
Considerations To Take Into Account
- U visa holders are authorized to work as a result of their status. Therefore, they are automatically issued the EAD without having to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization;
- Derivative family members of the U visa holder are authorized to work, but will not automatically obtain an EAD. In order for them to work, form I-765 must be filed;
- The EAD can only be issued after the petition for U status is approved, regardless of when Form I-765 is filed;
- If the threshold is reached in a fiscal year and USCIS uses the waiting list process, U-Visa petitioners and their derivative family members in the US can apply for EADs using Form I-765 on a deferred action basis. .
How To Get The Green Card Through The U Visa?
To apply for a Green Card with a U visa, you must:
- Have been physically presente in the US continuously for at least 3 years in U nonimmigrant status;
- You have not refused a reasonable request to cooperate with law enforcement agencies since obtaining your U visa;
- You are not inadmissible under section 212(a)(3)(E) of the INA;
- Form I-485 files, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; were properly submitted;
- You are under U status at the time you file Form I-485;
- Your presence in the US is justified for humanitarian reasons, public interest, or to ensure family unity.
- Your application deserves a favorable exercise of discretion.
Request By Family Members
- Each family member must file their own Form I-485 with USCIS;
- You are physically present in the US at the time of filing Form I-485;
- You are lawfully admitted under U-2, U-3, U-4, or U-5 nonimmigrant status;
- You maintain your U-2, U-3, U-4, or U-5 status at the time you file the I-485 application;
- You have been physically in the US continuously for at least 3 years since obtaining the derivative U-Visa;
- You are admissible to the US under section 212 (a) (3) (E) of the INA;
- Presence in the US is justified for reasons of public interest, humanitarian or to ensure family unity;
- It deserves a favorable exercise of discretion.
Note: If family members have never had a U visa, each must file Form I-929 at the same time as filing I-485 or later.
Derivative family members do not have to wait for the U-Visa holder to file Form I-485, as relatives can file a Green Card application before or after the holder. Additionally, relatives can apply for adjustment of status even if the U status holder never files their own Form I-485.
If the U visa holder adjusts their status before their relatives are initially admitted as a U immigrant, the relatives will no longer be admitted under this status. However, they may be eligible to adjust status directly or apply for an immigrant visa as a qualified family member.
In our publication on American family based immigration, you can find extensive information on this process.
Documents To Apply For The Green Card Through The U Visa
- Form I-485;
- Copy of Form I-797, Form I-918 Notice of Action;
- Copy of each page of the passport or equivalent travel documents valid while you held the U-Visa (if not, provide a valid explanation as to why you do not have this evidence);
- Evidence of the dates of each departure from the US along with the dates and places of return, and the reason for each travel (if you have left the country);
- Certification from the investigating or prosecutorial agency indicating your absences necessary for the investigation or prosecution (in case you were absent from the US for more than 90 days or for periods greater than 180 days);
- Your own affidavit attesting to your continued physical presence in the US;
- Evidence that you were lawfully admitted to the U.S. under U status and continue to have U status at the time you file Form I-485;
- Evidence that you have complied with any reasonable request for assistance from law enforcement agencies in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity;
- Evidence that the adjustment of status is justified for humanitarian reasons, to ensure family unity, or in the public interest;
- Two passport-style photographs;
- Copy of photo identification that has been issued by the government;
- Copy of the birth certificate;
- Copy of Form I-94 arrival/departure record or copy of CBP permit or admissibility stamp;
- Form I-693, medical report and immunization record;
- Certified police and court records of criminal charges, convictions, or arrests (if applicable).
Family members must submit similar documents, for more information review the USCIS section on documentation for the Green Card through the U visa.
Adjusting status based on the U visa is not an automatic benefit, therefore, you have the responsibility to show that USCIS must use its discretion to accept your application for adjustment of status. In including a discretionary decision on your application, USCIS takes into account all the factors that would make you inadmissible.
Generally, favorable situations such as family ties, length of residence in the US, and extreme hardship may be enough for USCIS to use its discretion in approving the application. In the event of adverse factors, you must submit supporting documentation for these favorable situations.
What Is The Difference Between The U Visa And The T Visa?
Although the U visa and the T visa were created to help victims of certain crimes in the US, they have their notable differences. Let’s check some of these differences:
- The T visa is issued exclusively to victims of human trafficking in the US, while the U visa is for victims of certain crimes that involve physical or psychological abuse;
- To qualify for a T visa, the victim must show that the crime involved at least one element from each of the following 3 categories:
- Process: Consists of the recruitment, transfer, transportation, protection and/or reception of a person;
- Forms and means: Refers to threats and activities of coercion, fraud, kidnapping, deceit and abuse of power, among other crimes;
- Objective: It is the purpose for which the crime is committed; that is, sexual violence and exploitation, prostitution and pornography. It also involves forced labor, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, and slavery.
- T visa applicants must have been human trafficked into the US, while U visa applicants may have visited the US on vacation or for any other reason before they were victims of the crime;
- U visa applicants must assist officers in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, while a T visa does not require this for the most part;
- For a U visa, substantial abuse must be shown, while for a T visa they must show extreme hardship in the visa application is denied.
Frequently Asked Questions About The U Visa
Although the U visa is valid for a period of no more than 4 years, it can be renewed with the support of a certifying agency (such as the prosecutor’s office or the police). In addition, it is possible to obtain the Green Card through an adjustment of status. After spending 5 years in the US and meeting various necessary requirements, you can apply for US citizenship.
The difference between these two migratory reliefs is that the U visa requires the participation of the victim in the investigation or process of the crime and that the aggressor can be any individual (even the undocumented). In contrast, the VAWA visa requires that the abuser be a US citizen or resident.
To find out what year U visas go into their processing time, feel free to contact our office.
The law specifically states that you must wait 3 years to apply for lawful permanent residence.
If you are denied a U visa, not everything is lost yet. Consult with our immigration lawyers so that they can analyze your case and can indicate the best possible path.
Immigration Lawyers To Apply For The U Visa
The immigration lawyers at Lluis Law have the prestige of having more than 50 years of combined experience helping immigrants in the application process and paperwork for any type of American visa.
To apply for a visa, it is important to comply with all the necessary requirements, since if you do not, you risk that your application will be delayed or even worse, that it will be denied.
If you have been the victim of a crime while being in the US and need a visa to protect you and your family, contact our office immediately for a personalized consultation.
LATINOS WITH OVER 50 YEARS EXPERIENCE
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