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The U Visa
Have you been a victim of a violent crime in the United States? An assault, domestic violence or sexual abuse? Have you ever reported to the police any violent crime committed against yourself or your child? If so, you might be eligible for a the new U Visa Nonimmigrant Status. Congress enacted laws to protect immigrant crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement in order to encourage people to report crimes without fear of deportation. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Hispanics” are more likely to be victims of violent crimes. Police efforts to reduce crime are hampered by undocumented immigrant crime victims’ fear of deportation.
What are the benefits of a U Visa?
The U Visa allows certain immigrant victims of crime to live and work in the United States. Immigrants who receive a U Visa can apply for a green card after three years. The government may issue up to 10,000 U Visas each year.
There are several requirements to apply for a U Visa. First, you must be the victim of a violent crime, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, assault, abduction, false imprisonment, blackmail, rape, torture, or incest.
You also must be the direct victim of the crime-that is, you must personally have suffered physical or mental harm as result of the crime. In some cases, though, certain relatives of a victim who is murdered, disabled, or very young may also be eligible to apply for U Visas as “indirect” victims.
Another requirement for the U Visa is that you must have helped, or be willing to help, law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute the crime committed against you. This could be by giving a statement to the police, answering questions by law enforcement officials, making a suspect identification, testifying in court, or submitting a complaint. What about my family members? If you are eligible for a U Visa, you can apply for your spouse and children. If you are under 21, you can also apply for your parent(s) and any unmarried brothers and sisters under 18. If your application is approved, your family members will receive the same benefits as you.
What must my application include?
Along with the U Visa application form, you will need to submit proof of the harm you suffered as a crime victim, and proof of your help in investigating the crime. This proof can include photos, statements from witnesses, police reports, court documents, restraining orders, medical records, and other such evidence. Also, an official from a law enforcement agency, police department, court, or prosecutor’s office needs to sign a form stating that you have been helpful in investigating the crime committed against you Finally, you must submit a written statement describing the crime and explaining how you helped in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
If applying for family members, you will need to include proof of the relationship (for example, marriage certificate, or birth certificate), along with a work permit application for each family member.
An immigration attorney can assist you with collecting and assembling these documents for your application.
What if I violated any immigration or criminal laws?
If you violated certain immigration laws, such as entering the U.S. without inspection, you will have to file an “inadmissibility waiver” form with your U Visa application. You may also have to file this form if you have any criminal convictions. The government will then decide whether to excuse your criminal conviction or immigration violation.
Get more information
As with any application you file with the immigration authorities, there is a risk that they will deny your application and possibly attempt to have you deported from the United States. That is why it is important for you to talk to an immigration attorney or experienced advocate before applying for a U Visa.