The U visa, also known as U nonimmigrant status, is specifically designated for individuals who are victims of certain crimes and endure mental or physical abuse. If they cooperate with law enforcement or government authorities during the inquiry or litigation of criminal actions, these victims can qualify for a U visa.
This specialized visa empowers eligible crime victims to report offenses without fear, facilitating cooperation with authorities. Notably, this provision applies even to those lacking legal immigration status. At New Frontier Immigration Law, we provide strategic sessions with a U Visa immigration lawyer in Phoenix, where you can learn how this program can help you.
What Is the Purpose of a U Visa?
U visas provide immigration relief and legal status for immigrants who aid law enforcement or government officials in prosecuting crimes. Generally, those who receive approval for this visa suffered physical or mental injuries because of the criminal activity in question, either as victims or witnesses.
Congress approved the U nonimmigrant visa program in October 2000 as a part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA).
The program was initially part of the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act, a section of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. However, the U visa is not the only option for battered women, children, and parents, according to USCIS.
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What Does the U Visa Provide Victims?
The U visa provides a much-needed lifeline to victims. Primarily, it offers temporary immigration status and work authorization. This means those in need can access working opportunities and remain safe in this country. It also provides a pathway to eventual lawful permanent residency status and even citizenship, if desired.
In addition to the key benefits of temporary immigration status and work authorization, the U visa also gives qualifying family members the same rights for protection in the United States. This ensures that not only direct victims can seek help, but immediate family members can also move along with them on their journey towards safety.
Beneficiaries of a U visa must receive certification from law enforcement, proving that they have been helpful or are likely to be helpful in an investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. With more trust put into this highly symbolic solution, we can look forward to further helping those in need find solace soon after suffering unfortunate events.
How Can a U Visa Help Me Obtain Legal Status?
When you receive a U visa from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you will also qualify to apply for a Green Card and obtain legal status to live and work in the United States after three years of having the U visa nonimmigrant status.
Meanwhile, your children, spouse, and other family members may receive a derivative U visa. You may want to discuss your options with an immigration attorney from New Frontier to ensure you understand this process and how to apply.
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Who Can Get a Nonimmigrant U Visa?
The nonimmigrant U visa is a category granted to individuals subjected to specific crimes while present in the United States, leading to their experience of mental or physical abuse stemming from these criminal acts.
This visa classification is explicitly crafted to provide safeguards for these victims, preventing additional harm and fostering an environment that promotes their collaboration with law enforcement agencies in pursuing legal action against these offenders. You may be eligible for a U visa if you meet the following requirements:
- You were the victim of a qualifying crime
- You suffered physical or mental abuse as a result
- You have information that can help the police investigate or prosecute the crime
- The crime happened in the United States and violated local, state, or federal laws
U visa applicants must either be admissible to the United States or apply for a waiver using Form I-192: Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant and receive approval.
What if the Victim Is a Child?
If the victim or witness is under 16 or has a disability and cannot provide the information to law enforcement, a parent or guardian may step in. This would still allow them to qualify for a U visa if they meet the remaining requirements.
Can Family Members Get U Visas Too?
Under some circumstances, certain qualifying family members can apply for a derivative U visa. This process will require the principal person to receive approval for their U visa, and then their spouse, children, and other dependents can file for a derivative U visa.
The rules for navigating this process are complex. As a result, many people choose to work with an immigration attorney to ensure they file the correct immigration forms, submit the necessary documentation, and ensure their families also receive legal status.
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What Crimes May Qualify Me for a U Visa?
Most U visa recipients are victims of a serious crime, although some witness these crimes. Almost any crime that could cause significant harm to someone should qualify. Some other types of crimes, such as fraud, also meet the requirements. While there is a long list of crimes that can meet the criteria, some of the most common include the following:
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Genital mutilation
- Sexual exploitation
- Involuntary servitude
An immigration lawyer familiar with U visas can assess your circumstances to determine if you qualify for one. They can also handle your application process, including requesting derivative U visas for your family.
Validity and Extension of a U Visa
When granted a U visa, you have legal status for four years. Once these four years have passed, your visa will expire, and you will need to leave the country unless you have been granted permanent resident status in the meantime. However, there are situations in which a U visa holder may be eligible to extend their U visa status.
The situations that may make you eligible for an extension include:
- If a request was made for you to remain in the country by law enforcement
- If delays were made during consular processing
- If you are waiting for your green card application to be processed
- If exceptional circumstances apply to your case
The Cost of Filing for a U Visa
All U visa nonimmigrant status applications can be filed for free. However, you may need to file additional forms along with your petition that have various processing fees. In this situation, you have the option of filing Form I-912: Request for Fee Waiver.
Alternatively, you can include your written request for a fee waiver and your application when filing.
Working With Our Attorneys on Your Immigration Relief Case
If you hire a lawyer from our firm to help you fight immigration concerns or issues, we will provide compassionate, comprehensive legal services to your family. For example, our immigration lawyers will:
- Assess your circumstances
- Explain your legal options
- Walk you through the process to seek a better outcome for you and your family
- Address your questions and concerns
- Represent you in immigration court proceedings as necessary
- Fight arrest, detention, and deportation
Our immigration law firm offers strategic sessions where you can speak with our team, asking questions about U visas or other options for gaining legal status to live and work in the United States.
Discuss Your Options With an Attorney From New Frontier Immigration Law
If you have questions about the U visa, our team at New Frontier Immigration Law will schedule a strategy session with you so you can learn more about this program and other options for immigration relief based on your unique situation.
Our lawyers provide compassionate and caring support for immigrants because many of us have been in your situation. We can help you and your family fight removal, reunite, and gain legal status. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with one of our team members.