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U-VISA


U nonimmigrant status is a form of relief available to victims of certain crimes and the victim’s derivative family members.  Congress created this immigration status to encourage undocumented persons to report crimes and to participate in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of crimes in the U.S. without fear of being reported to immigration authorities.  An applicant/petitioner may petition for U-nonimmigrant status if he or she lives in the U.S. or in another country.

U-nonimmigrant status allows for victims to obtain work authorization and be able to legally reside in the United States legally for four years.  With U-nonimmigrant status, a victim be eligible adjust his or her status after three years to become a lawful permanent resident. Five years later, he or she may be eligible to apply for naturalization.

Qualifying Crime

To qualify for “U” nonimmigrant status, the applicant/petitioner must have been the victim of a “qualifying” crime. Generally the crime must have occurred in the U.S., but this is not always the case.  The statute provides that the following are qualifying crimes for U-nonimmigrant status:

  • Domestic Abuse Felonious Assault Involuntary Servitude Peonage
  • Rape Sexual Assault Abusive Sexual Contact Forced Prostitution
  • Sexual
  • Exploitation
  • Abduction
  • Being held hostage
  • Slave trade
  • Unlawful Criminal False Imprisonment
  • Trafficking Blackmail Extortion Obstruction of Justice
  • Witness Tampering
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Incest
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter Murder Torture
  • Perjury Attempt to commit any of the above

Certification Process:

The victim must be able to show that you assisted a law enforcement agency with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime.   For example, the victim may have helped by calling the police and reporting the crime to the police.   The law enforcement agency also must agree to certify that the victim was helpful to the investigation and continues to be helpful.   This means the victim cannot unreasonably refuse to assist law enforcement.    The certification requirement is met by submitting a specific form (Form I-918B) in which the designated certifying official of the law enforcement agency indicates to the Immigration Service that the victim assisted in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying crime.  Unfortunately, the law enforcement agency is not obligated to sign a certification form on behalf of the victim and each agency may have different procedures for signing U visa certifications. If the certification is not provided by law enforcement, the U-visa will not be granted. If you are given the required certification, it is important that it be submitted within 6 months of being signed as it will expire, and you will be required to obtain a new certification.

Substantial Physical or Mental Injury

The victim must also demonstrate that the crime caused he or she to suffer substantial physical or mental injury. Thus, the victim should submit evidence of injury such as medical or hospital  records, police reports, photographs, letters from physicians or qualified mental health providers, medication prescriptions, witness statements, and any other relevant document.

Helpfulness

The victim must demonstrate that he or she possesses information regarding the qualifying criminal activity and that he or she is likely to provide assistance to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.  The victim must also demonstrate that he or she has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.  Finally, the victim must also show that he or she has not refused or failed to provide information and assistance since he or she first started cooperating with the law enforcement agency.

Waiver

Many petitioners/applicants require waivers for immigration violations, criminal histories or both. Depending on each individual case, the petitioner/applicant will be require to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility to become eligible to receive U-nonimmigrant status.  Whether or not an applicant/petitioner requires a waiver of inadmissibility depends on the person’s individual circumstances.  Thus, to determine what grounds, if any, need to be waived, it is important that the petitioner/applicant consult with our team of qualified immigration attorneys.


Approval of U-nonimmigrant Status Petition for Applicants Inside the U.S.

If the petitioner/applicant’s U-nonimmigrant status petition is approved, the petitioner/applicant will be issued an employment authorization document (EAD) which is valid for 4 years.  The EAD is not a travel document and the petitioner/applicant cannot travel outside the U.S.  If the petitioner/applicant needs to travel outside the U.S., please contact our office for more information about the process.  There may be substantial risks associated with traveling, so please contact us before leaving the U.S. or making any travel plans.

Approval of U-nonimmigrant Status Petition for Applicants Outside the United States

If you are outside the United States, you may still qualify for U nonimmigrant status.  If the petition is approved, the petitioner/applicant residing outside the U.S. will be required to complete additional processing.  Specifically the petitioner/applicant will be required to apply for and obtain a U-visa at the nearest U.S. Consulate in his of her country of residence or citizenship.

Processing Times

The processing times for the U-nonimmigrant status petition vary depending on how many individuals have applied in the current fiscal year.   Each fiscal year, Congress has allocated 10,000 U-vias. These visas first become available on October 1.  If the number of applicants exceeds the amount of available visas, applicants will have to wait until the next fiscal year, beginning the following October 1.  If the case is approvable, and the petitioner/applicant is in the U.S., the applicant/petitioner may be granted deferred action.  An applicant who is granted deferred action cannot travel outside the U.S., but can legally work in and reside in the U.S.

Appeals

A petitioner/applicant can appeal the denial of the U-nonimmigrant petition within 30 days of the date of the decision.  A petitioner/applicant may also file a motion to reopen and/or reconsider a denial of a U-nonimmigrant petition.  Motions to reopen and/or reconsider generally must be filed within 30 days of the decision.  For a motion to reopen, the petitioner/applicant must state new facts and the motion must be supported with declarations and other documentary evidence.  For a motion to reconsider, the petitioner/applicant must state reasons for reconsideration and include any citations to relevant law.  If your or your family member’s U-nonimmigrant status application was denied, please contact us for a consultation to determine the next best course of action.