The U Visa was created under The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 for immigrant victims of serious crimes. If you are able to get a U Visa, you will be granted legal status for up to four years, and may be eligible to apply for a green card after three years.
Being a victim, or claiming to be a victim of a serious crime is not sufficient. You must get a qualifying government agency to provide a “certificate of helpfulness” and prove the qualifying crime or abuse.
If you have issues of inadmissibility from past immigration violations or other issues, there may be a waiver that you can apply for as well.
U Visa Eligibility
In order to apply for a U visa using Form I-918, Petition for U Non-Immigrant Status, you must meet the following requirements:
You must have been a victim of a “qualifying criminal activity,” and this crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. law. Indirect and bystander victims are also eligible to apply in certain circumstances.
In the course of this criminal activity, you must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse.
You have useful information about this criminal activity.
You (or your parent or guardian) have been or will be “helpful” to law enforcement in order to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.
You are admissible to the United States or you are applying for a waiver using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
You Must Prove Substantial Physical Injury or Mental Abuse
You must have suffered “substantial” physical injury or mental anguish as a result of this criminal activity and you must provide USCIS with medical records and affidavits to support your claim. Unfortunately, merely being the victim of a crime does not qualify you for the U Visa.
To determine if you suffered “substantial” injury or anguish, factors such as the length, severity, and permanent impact on your life will be considered by USCIS. You should explain and give details about your suffering and injuries in a personal statement, as well as including medical records and psychological examinations.
You Must Be Helpful to Law Enforcement
Many U.S. immigrants do not provide information to law enforcement due to fear of deportation. This leaves immigrants vulnerable to criminals who take advantage of their fear of law enforcement. The police certification is a necessary part of the U Visa application. The official will attest that you have been a victim of a qualifying crime and you are being helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. This encourages immigrants to come forward and report crimes. If you have been a victim, it is important to report to law enforcement and provide all the information you can that could lead to the criminal’s identification and arrest. Such helpfulness will greatly increase your chances of getting a police official to give you a certification for the U Visa.
A Waiver Is Available If You Are Inadmissible
To be eligible for a U visa, you must not be “inadmissible” to the United States. This means that you would not be barred from U.S. entry due to factors such as multiple criminal convictions, immigration violations, or other issues.
If you do have issues that make you “inadmissible” then you will need to apply and be approved for a waiver of inadmissibility. You will submit USCIS Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant. This differs from the I-601 Inadmissibility Waiver required for other non-immigrant and immigrant petitions because the I-192 Waiver does not require you to show “extreme hardship.” The I-192 Waiver is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and approval is not guaranteed.
Your Qualifying Family Members May Receive Derivative U Visas
Certain family members may be eligible to become derivative U Visa recipients if the principal petitioner’s application is approved. These include your:
unmarried children under age 21
parents (if principal petitioner is under age 21), and
unmarried siblings under 18 years old (if principal petitioner is under age 21).
You can submit Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U Visa Recipient along with your own petition or after your U Visa is approved. Any derivative relatives that you include must also be “admissible” to the U.S. (or apply for a waiver) and have good moral character. (The “public charge” ground of inadmissibility doesn’t apply to derivative family members, either.)
U Visas Are Subject to a Cap
There is a yearly cap of 10,000 U visas (not including visas for derivative family members). Because of these numerical limitations, you may want to see whether the cap for U Visas has been reached before you apply.
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