The following discusses issues relating to U Visas. It does not constitute legal advice and addresses issues only generally. Each situation is different and requires a specific legal analysis.
What is a U Visa and How do I Qualify for One?
If you are undocumented and have been the victim of a serious crime while in the U.S., you should consult with CLA or another qualified immigration attorney about the possibility of applying for a U Visa. A U Visa is for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.
Who May Apply for a U Visa?
The victim of the crime may apply for themselves and certain other family members, such as their children. In addition to having suffered mental or physical abuse, the U Visa applicant must be helpful to law enforcement in the prosecution of the crime. Helping officials can include reporting the crime, acting as a witness, submitting evidence, and possibly testifying at a trial. The government or law enforcement agency must be willing to provide documentation of your cooperation.
Which Crimes Qualify?
There is a list of qualifying crimes which makes a person eligible for a U Visa that can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website here: Qualifying Crimes. Common qualifying crimes include: Rape, Murder, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Felonious Assault.
What Kind of Relief is Offered?
If granted, a U Visa would give the beneficiary a nonimmigrant visa and work authorization for four years. After four years, the person is eligible to apply to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (a green card holder).
How Long does it Take to Get a U Visa?
USCIS issues 10,000 U Visas each year. Currently, there are more applications than there are visas available. It may take several years before a U Visa is approved, during which time you remain undocumented and will not be issued a work authorization based on the U Visa application.
How Much does it Cost to Apply for a U Visa?
There is no USCIS filing fee for the U Visa application.
What is the Difference between a U Visa and a VAWA Application?
A VAWA application is a visa petition for battered spouses, parents and children of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents. Similar to the U Visa, a VAWA application provides a path for victims of domestic violence to apply for a green card, but it is based on the applicant’s relationship to their abuser, who must be a U.S. Citizen or green card holder.
There may be other requirements or restrictions based on the specific facts of your situation. If you believe that you are a candidate for a U Visa, VAWA or other immigration relief, contact Community Legal Advocates for a further assessment of the facts of your case.