Crimes are acts that break the law of the land. Many criminals target tourists, visitors, or even illegal immigrants who are staying in the country. Unfortunately, there are circumstances where a foreign national suffers harm, loss, or damage. Part of the role of US Immigration is to look into these criminal cases. To eliminate this fear which stands as a barrier to catching many criminals, Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000.
This article will answer the following questions related to the U Visa application:
- What is a U Visa?
- How Do I Qualify for the U Visa?
- How Do I Apply for a U Visa?
- Is There a Cap for the U Visa?
- How Do I Apply for a U Visa for My Dependents?
- How Long Will It Take to Get a U Visa?
- What is the Role of an Immigration Attorney?
What is a U Visa?
U Visa is a United States non-immigrant visa that is granted to victims of criminal activity who have suffered extreme physical and mental abuse. It is designed to protect victims of crimes who are not US citizens and to gather information regarding crimes. This type of visa protects the victims by granting them legal status in the United States where law enforcement can work together with them against the crimes committed. These victims, regardless of nationality, must be willing to assist government officials and give valuable information during the investigation of the criminal case. This information can then be used to track the criminal and make a conviction. Talk to a reliable immigration attorney in Shenandoah to know more about your options to get into the United States.
How Do I Qualify for the U Visa?
To qualify for the U visa, the crime must have happened within the US territory. A reliable Shenandoah immigration attorney can help you understand your case and determine your eligibility for this visa type. Furthermore, the victims of the crime must fulfill the following criteria:
- Be a victim of one of the crimes listed by the US government
- Have suffered physical or mental abuse from the crime
- The victim must be admissible as a non-immigrant in the US
- Be willing to cooperate with the US government during the investigation of crime
- Provide useful information regarding the crime which they share with law enforcement officers (if the victim is under 16 years old, they may have a family member or guardian share the information for them)
Moreover, the victim is required to submit a signed certification from a law enforcement official. This certification (known as USCIS Form 1-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification) serves as evidence in support of the petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for U nonimmigrant status.
How Do I Apply for a U Visa?
When you apply for a U Visa, it is advisable to seek legal assistance from a credible Shenandoah immigration attorney to guide you throughout the application process. You need to complete the following steps listed below:
- Cooperate with law enforcement – the victim needs to request a law enforcement certification (Form I-918 and/or Supplement B), and assist them in the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of the qualifying crime
- Complete the online application form – to begin the application process for a U visa, you should fill out the Form DS-160 (Application for Non-immigrant Visa)
- Prepare the required documents – complete the requirements and submit them at the US Embassy or USCIS
- Wait for visa processing – USCIS will review the petition for eligibility and requests more evidence and documents from you (if necessary)
- After visa approval – if you are eligible, your petition for a U nonimmigrant status will finally be approved
Is There a Cap for the U Visa?
The U visa has a “cap” which is implemented by the US government directives. This means that there is a limited number of U visas issued per year, therefore, it can affect the processing time of your U visa application. In total, no more than 10,000 U visas shall be granted in one fiscal year. This includes only the principal applicants (victims), and not their immediate family or dependents.
Immigrants who have completed the application process and whose cases have been approved (but no visa available), can be granted “deferred action” by USCIS to alleviate the waiting time. Petitioners placed on the waiting list will be granted deferred action or parole and are qualified to apply for a work permit while waiting for additional U visas to become available. However, you might need to wait more years in deferred action status before you receive your U visa.
How Do I Apply for a U Visa for My Dependents?
Under the U visa, you are allowed to bring your spouse, children, siblings, and parents under certain circumstances with you in the US. After you get your own U visa, you can petition your qualifying family members. If you are applying for a derivative visa for an immediate family member who lives abroad, your family member should contact the nearest U.S. consulate to be interviewed for a visa. If the immigration officer requires additional supporting documents from your immediate family member or dependent to determine whether he or she is admissible to the United States, it can also lead to a longer waiting time. However, once they are approved with U dependents visas, they are also allowed to file for work authorization and start employment.
How Long Will It Take to Get a U Visa?
After you fill out and send in your complete application and paperwork, you must wait for USCIS to process it. It can take 12 to 18 months for the U visa to be processed and approved. If you are required to submit additional evidence or documents to the USCIS, then the processing time may become longer than expected.
The processing time for USCIS to decide on your application will vary depending on the particulars of your case. From the process of applying up to receiving a U visa, immigrants can expect to wait within four to ten years or more.
Until you are granted a U visa or deferred action, you do not have legal status. While your U visa is pending, you will not be granted work authorization. Once you have received deferred action, you can apply to USCIS for work authorization.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can pick you up and place you in detention or removal proceedings. Once you are placed in detention, you may or may not be able to get a stay of removal, which would stop you from being deported.
What is the Role of an Immigration Attorney?
Being a survivor of criminal activity and violence comes with complex emotions and trauma. However, with the U nonimmigrant visa, the hope is that more of these victims can feel safe to approach law enforcement so justice can take place. Keep in mind that you don’t have to go through all of the hardships alone. For legal assistance, do not hesitate to contact our experienced Shenandoah immigration attorneys at Luis F. Hess, PLLC. Our lawyers will help you throughout the application for your U Visa. We can walk with you every step of the way and help you start a new life in the United States as a lawful permanent resident.