One of the issues facing many immigrants in the United States is the choice between reporting a horrific crime and risk being deported or to live with the pain and fear of being a victim of the crime again. With the climate we are living in currently, more than ever immigrants fear coming forward when they are the victim of a crime. They suffer in silence out of fear of deportation. The consequence for the United States is that violent criminals remain on the streets to attack and brutally hurt other people, including U.S. citizens.
If you know someone who is the victim of criminal activity or you are the victim of a crime, you may qualify to stay in the country under a U visa to assist law enforcement in catching and putting away the criminal. Below is an explanation of the U visa and the requirements for qualification. We encourage you to contact our skilled Visa attorneys for more information and to discuss your case in confidence.
What is the U Visa?
The U visa was established under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. A U visa allows an immigrant to remain in the United States to assist law enforcement officers and prosecutors in the apprehension and prosecution of criminals in the United States. To qualify for a U visa, the applicant must have suffered physical or mental harm because of certain crimes.
One of the ideas behind the visa status was to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes. Because people who are not in the country legally are frightened of being deported, they do not report crimes to law enforcement officers. As a result, criminals are not prosecuted and punished for their crimes. With a U visa, an immigrant is granted nonimmigrant status for four years. Extensions may be granted for very limited situations.
After three years, you may be eligible to apply for legal permanent residence. However, you must meet all requirements for permanent residence to obtain a Green Card. If you are eligible for a Green Card, any family members allowed to remain in the United States with you may also be eligible for a Green Card.
Eligibility Requirements for a U Visa
Applicants must meet strict eligibility requirements for a U nonimmigrant visa. To be eligible, you must:
- Be the victim of a criminal activity on the approved list;
- The crime must have happened in the U.S. or it must violate U.S. laws;
- Have suffered extensive mental or physical injury because of the criminal activity;
- Be admissible to the country or qualify for a waiver for advance permission to enter the country as a non-immigrant;
- Have knowledge about the crime or have a guardian, parent or next friend provide information on your behalf if you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information because of a disability; and,
- Assist, have assisted, or be likely to help law enforcement agencies as they investigate the crime and prosecute the alleged criminal.
The qualifying criminal activities center around abuse, sex crimes, assault, kidnapping, murder, rape, slave trade, stalking, and trafficking. For a complete list of qualifying criminal activities, you should contact an experienced Immigration/Visa Attorney to discuss the specifics of the crime that caused your injury.
Some Family Members May Qualify for a U Visa
If your U visa has been approved, some of your family members may be eligible for a derivative U visa to remain in the country with you. You may file the appropriate forms for a derivative U visa at the same time you file your forms or at a later date.
The family members that may apply to remain in the country with you depends on your age. If you are under the age of 21 years, your parent