Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa or simply “U visa” in 2000 to protect noncitizen victims, regardless of their immigration status, and encourage them to cooperate with law enforcement officials. Unfortunately, there is a limit of 10,000 U visas available per fiscal year.
To qualify for a U visa, you must:
- have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of “qualifying criminal activity”;
- possess credible and reliable information about the “qualifying criminal activity”;
- cooperate with law enforcement officials in the investigation and/or prosecution of the “qualifying criminal activity”; and
- have been living in the United States, as the “qualifying criminal activity” must have occurred in the United States.
Are you a victim?
You may qualify as a victim for purposes of a U visa in two ways:
- A DIRECT victim is a person who has suffered direct harm as a result of the “qualifying criminal activity.”
- An INDIRECT victim is a family member where the direct victim of the “qualifying criminal activity” is deceased (as in cases of murder), incapacitated, or incompetent. If the DIRECT victim was under the age of 21 at the time of the crime, then his or her spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, parents and/or siblings under 18 qualify as INDIRECT victims.
Even if you are undocumented, have worked in the United States without permission, have used false documents, or have had a previous order of deportation, you may still qualify for a U visa. Contact our immigration attorneys at Goldstein Immigration Lawyers for a consultation to see if you or your loved one qualifies as a victim.
What is a “qualifying criminal activity”?
Congress has provided a list of crimes that violate federal, state, or local criminal laws. These crimes include but are not limited to:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
What qualifies as “substantial physical or mental abuse”?
In order to obtain a U visa, you must demonstrate that you suffered harm as the victim of a crime. The harm can be physical, psychological, or both.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look at various factors, including:
- the type and severity of the injury,
- the duration of the harm’s infliction, and
- any permanent or serious harm to the victim’s appearance, health, and physical or mental soundness, etc.
In order to prove your injury, you should gather relevant documents, including:
- police reports,
- protective orders,
- medical records,
- psychological evaluations,
- photographs of visible injuries, and
- affidavits of individuals who personally know how the crime has impacted you.
What must be sent to immigration?
A U visa applicant must submit Form I-918 and accompanying documents to USCIS. The application must contain five (5) essential elements:
- A completed Form I-918;
- your notarized affidavit describing what the “qualifying criminal activity” is, what relevant information you have regarding the victim’s substantial physical or mental abuse and other details of the crime, and how you are cooperating/have cooperated/will cooperate with law enforcement officials;
- any additional evidence demonstrating that you are a victim;
- an I-192 waiver pursuant to INA §212(d)(14) and 8 C.F.R. §212.17 if you are inadmissible; and
- a completed Form I-918 Supplement B signed by a certifying official within 6 months of filing the petition.
What is a waiver and why do I need it?
The Form I-192 waiver is necessary in cases where you are inadmissible. You may be deemed inadmissible for a variety of reasons; for example, if you:
- were convicted of criminal and related grounds,
- have unlawful presence,
- have used fraudulent documents,
- are a public charge (i.e., on public benefits),
- falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, or
- have a prior order of removal.
The standard for the waiver is that it will be approved if it is “in the national or public interest.” Therefore, the waiver will not be denied automatically if you are undocumented. Congress created the U visa to protect the most vulnerable victims of crime, including those who are undocumented. Thus, the U visa is meant to encourage community policing and greater access to justice.
If your application requires an I-192 waiver, our immigration attorneys will work with you to ensure that USCIS understands your unique situation.
What is a law enforcement certification and why do I need it?
The greatest challenge in the U visa application process is obtaining the Supplement B certification from a certifying official. Among the certifying officials are federal, state or local police officers, prosecutors, judges, and even child protective services.
This process can be very complicated and can take a long time. Attorney Goldstein will advocate on your behalf to obtain the certification and will work with you to ensure that USCIS receives the most complete application package possible to improve your chances of success.
What do you get if your U visa application is granted?
If your U visa application is approved, you will receive several benefits, including:
- U visa nonimmigrant status for four (4) years;
- employment authorization (i.e., a work permit) for four (4) years;
- if you are in immigration court proceedings, any outstanding order of removal, deportation, or exclusion will be deemed cancelled by operation of law; and
- you will be able to apply for legal permanent residency (i.e., a green card) after three (3) years from the date that the U visa is granted.
How can we help?
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a crime, are afraid of reporting the crime because of your immigration status, and live in the Boston area, contact the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein to help you. Attorney Goldstein has many years of experience guiding countless families through the immigration process. He understands what you’re going through and is eager to help. Call him at (617) 722-0005 today to schedule an immigration consultation.
We have a proven track record of success in a wide-range of immigration matters. The immigration attorneys in our Boston office are ready to thoroughly analyze the facts of your case and carefully recommend your best immigration option.