Immigration Attorneys Serving Victims of Crimes in Cleveland and Across the US
If you are an immigrant without legal status and you have been the victim of crime in the United States, contact us today to consider your options. The U nonimmigrant visa is for victims of certain crimes who have suffered great mental or physical abuse as a result. The purpose behind this legislation is to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes while also protecting the victims of crime who have suffered but may have valuable information. This incentivizes victims to provide assistance to law enforcement in a way that will better society.
Eligibility Requirements for U Visa
Because of the purpose behind the law, applicants for the U visa must be willing to help government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. To be eligible for U nonimmigrant status, the victim must also have information concerning that criminal activity. He or she must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If the victim is under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, then a parent, guardian, or next friend may provide assistance to law enforcement on the applicant’s behalf.
The crime (which had to occur in the United States) must involve one of the qualifying acts listed specifically in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Some examples of these crimes include (but are not limited to) the following: domestic violence, felonious assault, rape, kidnapping, stalking, torture, trafficking, sexual assault, and blackmail. Sometimes applicants need to present legal arguments to explain why the relevant crime or criminal activity falls within this list.
In addition to filing the relevant forms and supporting evidence, an applicant must also obtain certification from a law enforcement agency that explains his or her assistance in the case. Some law enforcement agencies are not familiar with this process and need to be provided more detailed guidance than others.
Other Considerations to Make When Filing
Applicants may also petition for U nonimmigrant status if they are living outside of the United States. If approved, they will then consular process back into the United States, which includes attending an interview with a consular office at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
In some situations, an individual filing for a U visa may be considered “inadmissible” by law. If this is the case, that person will also need to file for waiver of his or her inadmissibility (even if he or she is already in the United States). In order to determine whether one is inadmissible, an applicant should seek advice from legal counsel regarding his or her particular circumstances.
The government grants U visa applicants U status for four years. U visa holders may file for an extension of that four years if they meet certain limited circumstances. These circumstances include a need based on a request from law enforcement, or based on exceptional circumstances. U visa holders should also know that when they file for a green card properly, their U visas are automatically extended at the time of filing and throughout the time that the green card application is pending.
The government only grants 10,000 U visas each year. There is no cap for family members deriving status from principal applicants, but there is still a very lengthy wait time. Applicants that are on a waiting list generally will be granted deferred action. They can then apply for work authorization while awaiting a grant of status. We therefore recommend that applicants begin the filing process as soon as possible.
Green Card Process
Furthermore, if you are already have a U visa you should begin preparing a plan early for your application for a green card. Applying for a green card when you have a U visa is different from other immigration processes. The applicant must prove physical and continuous presence in the United States for at least three years while in U status. He or she should also consider applying for any qualifying family members who may not already have derivative U visas. There is a specific process in place for this scenario, and it is best to understand your options as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of crime and you or your loved one does not have a lawful immigration status, contact us today to see if you are eligible to file for a U nonimmigrant visa. Our office can assist throughout this lengthy and sometimes difficult process to put you (and any qualifying family members) on the path toward one day obtaining a green card.