Immigrants who are victims of certain crimes that occur within the United States or its territories can apply for a special visa called a “U-Visa”. A U-Visa can help even those immigrants who are in the United States illegally, to be able to legally live and work in the United States for 4 years. After 3 years of non-immigrant status, a U-Visa holder may be eligible to file for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident.
In order to qualify for a U-Visa, it must be shown the petitioner must satisfy the following requirements:
- The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
- The individual must have information concerning that criminal activity;
- The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
- The criminal activity violated U.S. laws.
Qualifying criminal activity includes any one of the following crimes:
A petition for U nonimmigrant status must also contain a certification of helpfulness from a certifying agency. That means the victim must provide a U Nonimmigrant Status Certification from a U.S. law enforcement agency that demonstrates the petitioner “has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful” in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Obtaining the certification from law enforcement, at times, has proven to be a difficult procedure, as the participation of law enforcement agencies is completely voluntary in this process.
If a petitioner is able to obtain all the necessary documents, they may be able to submit derivative U-Visa petitions on behalf of certain family members. If a principle petitioner is under 21 years of age, they may petition on behalf of their spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under age 18. If a petitioner is over the age of 21, they may petition only on behalf of their spouse and children. For the purposes of this petition, a child is considered to be a son or daughter under age 21.
USCIS may grant no more than 10,000 U-Visas in any given fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). This does not apply to derivative family members such as spouses, children or other qualifying family members who are accompanying or following to join the petitioner. As with many other immigration benefits, the demand for U-Visas always exceeds the allotted number available. Any requests from immigration to supplement a U-Visa petition with more evidence, can lead to untimely delays. For that reason, it is important that a U-Visa application be prepared well, the first time. It is important that you contact a qualified immigration attorney before beginning the process of preparing a U-Visa petition.