Overview of U Visas

When the phrase “tough on crime” was in vogue some decades ago, Congress passed a law (the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000) that aimed to help law enforcement officials investigate crime while providing protections for victims of crime. One important tool for non-citizens the law created is the U visa, which is a nonimmigrant visa for victims of crimes (and certain family members) who have suffered significant mental or physical abuse. Holders of U visas can not only stay in the U.S. legally for four years, but they can also apply for a green card after a certain period of time. 

Who is Eligible for a U Visa?

There are six conditions that, if satisfied, means someone is eligible for a U visa. As long as you are a victim of a “qualifying criminal activity ” and have proved you suffered “substantial” physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime, you have four other requirements to satisfy:

  • The crime either occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws
  • You have useful information about the underlying criminal activity 
  • You have helped, are helping, or are likely to help law enforcement in their investigation or prosecution of the perpetrators
  • You are otherwise admissible to the U.S. (if you are not admissible, you may fill out and submit Form I-129 to waive this requirement)

What Crimes Lead to U Visa Eligibility?

There is a long list of crimes that are applicable to the U visa. The applicable crimes—officially referred to as “qualifying criminal activities”— include serious violent offenses like rape, manslaughter, murder, human trafficking, genital mutilation. It can also include crimes where physical harm has not directly been done to a victim, like blackmail, extortion, perjury, or witness tampering. A common thread among the crimes listed by the USCIS is that they are almost all felonies. 

The Process

For most U visa applicants, there are two forms to submit: Form I-918, which is the petition for U Nonimmigrant Status; and Form I-918 Supplement B, also referred to as a “certification of helpfulness.” This is verification from a law enforcement official that you are helpful in their investigations. Eligible family members of the victim need to submit Form I-918, Supplement A. 

Green Card

One of the most attractive features of a U visa is the glide path it creates for holders to receive an adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency (green card). U visa holders who have been helpful to law enforcement and and lived in the U.S. for three years (continuously) may file Form I-485, which is the green card application. Family members may also file Form I-485 to receive a green card. 

U Visa Cap

There is a cap of 10,000 U visas per year on principal applicants (the victims of crimes), but no cap on derivative applicants (family members of victims). If the cap is reached in a fiscal year, a waiting list is created. Besides the annual cap, there are plenty of other obstacles for U visa applicants. 

The best way to avoid these obstacles is to retain the services of a skilled immigration firm like RelisLaw, PLLC. Our team is well-equipped to help you handle any legal needs related to the U.S. immigration system. To discuss your options with us, call 1-800-514-4290 or reach out to us through our website to receive a free 10-minute initial phone consultation. 

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We help people from around the world to live and work freely in the U.S., to achieve their dreams, unite families, or escape persecution. No matter what immigration service you need, RelisLaw will provide caring and dependable counsel to you and aggressive advocacy to vigorously fight for you using every available legal avenue. As a global firm, we work with people in countries around the world. We meet clients across the U.S., as well as in New York, Toronto, and Montréal. We also meet with clients globally, located in any country, via Skype and other platforms.

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