The U Visa:

May 9, 2019 2:14 pm
by David Jakeman

Life is never the same after being the victim of a crime.

In addition to trying to rebuild your life, you are also roped into the court system, where criminal cases can drag on for years. But what if you’re also an immigrant on a limited-term visa? Or what if you don’t have a legal status in the US? You might be an important witness or have valuable information for law enforcement, but the clock is ticking on how long you can be in the US.

In recognition of the unique situation that immigrants who have been victimized by crime find themselves in, the government has created the U visa. Not every crime counts, but the list of qualifying crimes includes the following: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, and unlawful criminal restraint.

That’s a pretty depressing list, but if your situation doesn’t fit exactly, you can see if you could make an argument that it is substantially similar to one of the listed crimes. Also, included in the list is any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit one of the listed crimes.

Also important to remember is that the crime must have occurred in the United States or violated US law.

Another requirement of the U visa is that you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse because of the criminal activity. You need to provide documentation of the crime’s impact on your wellbeing; for example, through medical records, photographs, psychological reports, etc.

You must also have information about the crime and be helpful or likely to be helpful to law enforcement in investigating the crime or prosecuting the criminal. You will need certification of your petition by a law enforcement official. If you are under the age of 16, a parent, guardian, or counselor or social worker can provide the information and work with the police on your behalf.

You must be admissible to the United States

In addition, you must be admissible to the United States. In other words, you must be able to qualify for a green card. However, a unique benefit of the U visa is that many of the usual grounds of inadmissibility can be waived. Talk to an immigration lawyer about how this might apply in your case. Keep in mind, this waiver is not automatic. You will need to apply for the waiver, and you have to persuade the judge that it is in the government’s best interest to grant you a waiver.

A U visa lasts for four years.

After you’ve had a U visa for three years, you can apply for a green card and become a legal permanent resident if you meet the requirements. The great news is that a U visa is free to apply for, and 10,000 visas are distributed each year.

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