By Michelle Ramos, Law Offices of Ally Bolour
The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa for victims of crimes in the United States. It is important to keep in mind there is a list of specific qualifying crimes, not all victims of crimes are eligible for U visa. There are also some eligibility requirements that must be met.
You may be eligible for a U visa if:
- You are a victim of one of the qualifying crimes;
- That you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime;
- You have information concerning the crime;
- A certification from law enforcement or a prosecutor certifying that you were, are, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation;
- The crime violated the U.S. laws.
The qualifying crimes are:
Abduction; abusive sexual contact; blackmail; domestic violence; extortion; false imprisonment; female genital mutilation; felonious assault; fraud in foreign labor contracting; hostage; incest; involuntary servitude; kidnapping; manslaughter; murder; obstruction of justice; peonage; perjury; prostitution; rape; sexual assault; sexual exploitation; slave trade; stalking; torture; trafficking; witness tampering; unlawful criminal restraint.
After determining your eligibility for a U visa you can file form I-198 with U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will be required to fill out the form and provide documents or other evidence showing that you were in fact a victim of a qualifying crime and that you cooperated with the investigation.
41 vThere is a cap on how many visas are provided each year. USCIS currently provides 10,000 visas per year for victims of qualifying crimes. If the cap is met before all U visas petitions have been adjudicated, a waiting list is created. The cap only applies to the principal petitioner and not their derivatives.
Applying for a U visa is a lengthy and risky process. It can take up to two years to get a decision. During these two years the applicant is not awarded any protections or benefits. Since name and address is provided to immigration, applicant—like anyone who is in the U.S. illegally—runs the risk of being picked up by immigration. Also, U visa applicants are not entitled to employment authorization while waiting for a decision.
Once the U visa is approved any orders of removal and deportation against the applicant are cancelled. The applicant becomes eligible for employment authorization. The visa is granted for four (4) years, extension is valid for one (1) year. After three (3) years the U visa holder has the right to apply for Lawful Permanent Residency. Eligibility for Permanent Residency must be met at time of applying for adjustment of status.
If you have any questions regarding your eligibility for a U visa or learn more about our services you can reach us by phone at 323-218-0465 or by completing our online form.