Am I Eligible for a U-Visa?
What is a U-Visa?
A U-Visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows noncitizen victims of crime and certain qualifying family members to live and work in the U.S. for up to four years. The U-Visa is unique since although it is considered a temporary visa, it provides the holder an opportunity to adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident after being in the U.S. three years.
Who is Eligible for a U-Visa?
10,000 U-Visas are issued every year to persons who:
- have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of “qualifying criminal activity”;
- who possess credible and reliable information establishing that they have knowledge of the details concerning the criminal activity;
- who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to a certifying agency in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity;
- and the criminal activity occurred in the U.S.
What is Considered to be “Qualifying Criminal Activity”?
As taken from the USCIS’s website, here is a list of what is considered to be qualifying criminal activity in order for a victim of a crime to be eligible for a U-Visa:
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
Who is Considered to be a Victim for Purposes of Applying for a U-Visa?
A “victim” must be a person who has suffered direct and proximate harm as a result of the commission of one of the criminal acts name in the statute.
An “indirect victim” could be a family member, where the direct victim is deceased, incompetent, or incapacitated as a consequence of the criminal act. If you have reason to believe that you eligible for a U-Visa because you are an indirect victim of a qualifying criminal activity, it is best to seek the advice of an immigration attorney.
Do My Family Members Qualify for a Derivative U-Visa Status?
If you are eligible to file for a U-Visa, then your family members may be eligible to derive U-Visa status from your application being successfully processed. The following family members may be eligible to derive status from the petitioner:
If the victim is under 21 years of age (at the time the application is filed) the following relatives qualify for a U visa:
- Unmarried siblings under 18 (at the time the application is filed)
- Unmarried children under 21
If the victim is over 21, the following family members may qualify:
- Unmarried children under 21
How Do I Apply for a U-Visa?
If you have determined that you may be eligible for a U-Visa, then Form-918 must be filed with the USCIS, along with other required documentation. If the petitioner for a U-Visa is inadmissible to the United States under the INA § 212, then a special waiver must be included along with the primary application. This is known as an I-192 waiver, which allows the otherwise inadmissible petitioner to temporarily enter the U.S.
What Kind of Evidence Needs to be in My U-Visa Application?
The petitioner must be ready to sign a sworn statement of the facts of the victimization and to provide any and all evidence which demonstrates the victimization. Additionally, a certified official of a law enforcement agency must be willing to qualify the veracity of the petitioner’s claims and to attest that the victim meets the eligibility requirements of a U-Visa. Your immigration attorney will be able to provide you with a list of any other items he or she feels would assist in processing your application successfully.
Applying for a U-Visa can be a lengthy process and each application is very fact-specific. If you or someone you know believes that they are eligible to apply for a U-Visa, it is best to seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney before you decide to pursue that option. The attorneys at Gilles Law, PLLC are here to assist with your inquiries.