In the year 2000, Congress put into action the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. The legislation was designed to help law enforcement prosecute crimes, the victims of which would otherwise have been unwilling to speak up due to their illegal status and risk of deportation. As a result of this, victims of certain crimes are able to apply for a U visa to obtain legal status, a right to work in the United States, and an eventual path to citizenship.
You may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if:
- You are the victim of one of the crimes listed below
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated United States laws
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity
- You have information about the criminal activity
- You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime
- You are admissible to the United States via other standard criteria.
The crimes that qualify for a U visa are:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar, or any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes
Many people are surprised to find out that U visas are available not only for victims of crimes but also for the immediate family members of victims. There are actually four different classes of U visas:
- U-1 visas – for persons who were crime victims and fit the other criteria
- U-2 visas – spouses of U-1 applicants
- U-3 visas – children of U-1 applicants
- U-4 visas – parents of U-1 applicants who are children
Length of the Visa
A U visa is valid for four years, but may be renewed with a written letter of support from the law enforcement agency that the applicant is assisting. An applicant who has had the U visa for three years, can show continued physical presence in the United States and have contributed significantly to the goals of their supporting law enforcement agency can receive permanent residency, after which there is an eventual path to citizenship.
Beware of Backlogs
There is a limit of 10,000 U-1 visas that can be issued per year, which is vastly less than the demand for these visas. At the end of 2017, there was a backlog of 87,000 applications. Applications are triaged based on the type of criminal activity, the quality of the supporting evidence, and the likelihood that the person could help with the prosecution of the criminal activity. The help of a qualified attorney in preparing the application for a U visa could help the applicant make a stronger case for being approved.
Ready to file your for you U visa? Contact us today to get started!