Immigrants and their loved ones can face significant legal hurdles in the U.S. From extensive delays to potential deportation, many noncitizens are understandably overwhelmed and unsure of how to navigate the complex immigration system as a noncitizen.
Fortunately, there are lawful paths to reside in the U.S. on a permanent basis. One path to secure refuge in the U.S. is the U nonimmigrant status or U-visa, which allows petitioners to apply for their green card after 3 consecutive years of residing in the United States.
Keep reading to learn more about the eligibility requirements and benefits of petitioning for a U-visa as a victim of a qualifying crime.
What Is a U-Visa?
In 2000, the U.S. government introduced the “U” nonimmigrant status to grant lawful permanent U.S. residence to victims of certain crimes. The U-visa is set aside for qualifying crime victims who:
- Have suffered mental or physical abuse, and
- Are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
By applying for a U-visa, eligible applicants can live and work legally in America without fear of deportation. Another key benefit of obtaining your U-visa is the opportunity to apply for a green card after 3 years of continuous presence in the United States.
Eligibility for "U" Nonimmigrant Status
While applying for a U-visa can be an excellent path for noncitizens and their loved ones to make their American dream a reality, especially given the excessive wait times and grueling processes involved in our current backlogged system. However, it’s important to understand that applying for a U-visa can be just as arduous and time-consuming as other immigration proceedings.
Even eligible U-visa petitioners may face unexplained rejections or dismissals of their claim, making it vital to seek sound counsel from an experienced immigration lawyer. A qualified attorney can ensure your application is completed meticulously and fortified with extensive evidence to reduce the chance of your petition being rejected.
To be eligible for a U-visa, the petitioner must:
- Be a victim of qualifying criminal activity in the United States.
- Be admissible to the United States.
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity.
- Have information about the criminal activity.
- Was helpful, is helpful, or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
If the petitioner is under the age of 16 or unable to provide information about the crime due to a disability, they may still be eligible if a parent, guardian, or next friend possesses information about the crime and assists law enforcement on the petitioner's behalf.
If the applicant isn’t admissible to the U.S., they may be eligible for a waiver by filing Form I-192 (“Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant”).
Which Crimes Qualify for U Nonimmigrant Status?
To qualify for a U-visa, petitioners must provide evidence that they’re the victim of a qualifying crime. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), qualifying criminal activity includes:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other Related Crimes
“Related crimes” extends to any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above crimes.
Petitioning for a U-Visa in the U.S.
To apply for U nonimmigrant status in the United States, petitioners must:
- File Form I-918 (“Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status”).
- File Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency.
- Submit Form I-192 if the applicant faces inadmissibility issues.
- Include a personal statement describing the criminal activity of which the petitioner was a victim.
- Provide evidence to establish each eligibility requirement.
Petitioning for a U-Visa Outside the U.S.
Yes! You may be eligible to apply for a U-visa even if you live outside the U.S. Petitioners outside the United States can take the following steps to apply for U nonimmigrant status:
- File all necessary forms for U nonimmigrant status with the Vermont Service Center.
- Follow all instructions received from the Vermont Service Center, including fingerprinting at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Once the application is approved, petitioners must complete the consular process to enter the U.S., including an interview with a consular officer at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Sound Counsel for Orange County Immigrants
At Yekrangi & Associates, our highly skilled immigration attorneys are committed to helping immigrants and their loved ones navigate complex immigration disputes in Orange County. From naturalization and citizenship to asylum to removal proceedings, our team provides sound counsel and unwavering advocacy to guide your steps wisely from start to finish. When you partner with our compassionate lawyers, we’ll make you our top priority. Unlike larger firms that treat clients like case numbers, we set higher standards by going above and beyond for each client we serve, taking adequate time to review their unique needs and maximize their chance of obtaining a successful outcome.
Preparing for immigration proceedings in Orange County? Our immigration lawyers can zealously protect your rights. Call (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation.