Visas for Victims of Criminal Activity: U Visas

Out of terrible circumstances can come opportunities for non-residents of the U.S through the U nonimmigrant status (U visa). Victims of certain crimes, known as “qualifying criminal activities,” may be able to obtain a U visa if they cooperate with law enforcement. Besides creating a legal avenue for non-residents to stay in the U.S. for four years, U visas allow individuals to petition for a green card. 

Qualifying Crimes

More than 30 crimes may lead to availability of U visas for victims. These qualifying criminal activities include (but are not limited to) domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault or exploitation, kidnapping, slavery, manslaughter, and homicide. Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of these crimes, as well as solicitation, are classified as qualifying criminal activities. 

Victims of these crimes must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the commission of these crimes. Additionally, victims must have knowledge of the crime and be helpful while law enforcement investigates or prosecutes the crime. The crime must have been committed in the U.S. or otherwise violated federal laws. 

Certificate of Helpfulness

The U visa petition, Form I-918, is not the only document petitioners must submit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Supplement B of Form I-918, which is often referred to as the certificate of helpfulness, is an attestation that the petitioner has been or will be helpful to law enforcement. Authorities from a law enforcement agency must sign Supplement B. Lastly, petitioners must have evidence backing up the claims in Form I-918 and other documents. 

Getting a Green Card/Permanent Residence

Though U visas are nonimmigrant visas, individuals are often able to adjust their status and obtain a green card. This can only be done after a U visa holder has had a continuous physical presence in the U.S. for at least three years. The clock does not begin ticking on this three-year period until after the individual has obtained a U visa.

As long as the U visa holder has not “unreasonably” withheld help from law enforcement, the individual is generally qualified to obtain a green card. 

U Visas For Family Members

U visas for the principal (victim of the qualifying crime) are technically classified as U-1 visas. Derivative U visas (U-2, U-3, U-4, and U-5 visas) are available for certain family members of the principal—specifically spouses, children, and unmarried parents or siblings under the age of 21. 

U Visas Take Time to Process

Unfortunately, only 10,000 U visas are issued per year. There is currently an application backlog. Therefore, it’s essential for applicants to get quality legal representation so their applications do not experience needless delays or setbacks. 

RelisLaw has the experience that counts. The team understands the urgency of immigration matters and tirelessly works for clients and their families. Anyone interested is welcome to schedule a free 10-minute call with the team today.

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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.