If you have been the victim of a crime and assisted the authorities with the investigation of that crime, you may qualify for a work permit with a pathway to residency.
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000.
The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
A U visa provides the following benefits:
- You can legally live and work in the United States for four years. After three years of having a U visa you can apply for a green card to stay in the U.S. permanently. After five years with a green card, you may qualify for citizenship.
- Some of your family members may also be eligible to obtain a U visa.
- With a U visa, you may also be eligible for certain public benefits in some states like California and New York.
If you are a noncitizen victim of crime, you must meet ALL of these requirements:
- You obtain a certification from law enforcement or another certifying agency that you “have been helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution” of one of the categories of crimes listed in the U visa statute (the types of crimes listed in the U visa statute are varied but generally involve crimes of violence and sexual abuse);
- You can demonstrate that you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the crime certified;
- You can demonstrate that you have information regarding the criminal activity, usually explained in the certification; and
- The criminal activity violated U.S. law; or occurred in the U.S. (including Indian [Native American] country and military installations) or the territories and possessions of the U.S., also usually explained in the certification.
U visa applicants also must show that they are “admissible” or that they qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility if they have an issue in their past. One benefit of applying for a U visa is that the program offers more waivers for inadmissibility than would be available for a family-based immigration case. For example, a person who attempted to enter the U.S. by claiming to the U.S. is normally permanently barred from immigrating. However, U visa applicants may have this finding of inadmissibility waived and still obtain their work permit and residency.
U.S. immigration laws are complicated. Applying for a U visa can be a stressful process with inherent risks, therefore, it is recommend that a potential applicant seek assistance from a qualified licensed attorney. Our office is very experienced in representing victims of crime through the U visa process, having obtained hundreds of visas for past clients. If you believe you may qualify for the U visa, please schedule an appointment with our firm.
Photo by Department of Administration | Victims of Crime