The U visa is an immigration benefit that can be sought by victims of certain crimes who are currently assisting or have previously assisted law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a crime, or who are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The U visa provides eligible victims with nonimmigrant status in order to temporarily remain in the United States (U.S.) while assisting law enforcement. If certain conditions are met, an individual with U nonimmigrant status may adjust to lawful permanent resident status. Congress capped the number of available U visas to 10,000 per fiscal year.
Immigrants, especially women and children, can be particularly vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other abuse due to a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to, language barriers, separation from family and friends, lack of understanding of U.S. laws, fear of deportation, and cultural differences. Congress recognized that victims who do not have legal status may be reluctant to help in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity for fear of removal from the United States. The VTVPA was enacted to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of persons and other crimes while offering protection to victims of such crimes without the immediate risk of being removed from the country.
If an individual believes he or she may qualify for a U visa, then that individual or his or her representative will complete the USCIS Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918), and submit it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with all relevant documentation, including Form I-918B, the U visa law enforcement certification. Given the complexity of U visa petitions, petitioners often work with a legal representative or victim advocate.
If found eligible and a petition is approved, a U visa recipient receives nonimmigrant status to live and work in the United States for no longer than 4 years. Qualified recipients may apply to adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card) after three years of continuous presence in the U.S. while having a U visa. The petitioner will have to meet other eligibility requirements for a green card as well, including the ongoing duty to cooperate with law enforcement and to assist with the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying crime. Additionally, certain immediate family members of U visa recipients may also be eligible to live and work in the United States as derivative U visa recipients based on their relationship with the principal recipient. These family members include: Unmarried children under the age of 21 of principal U visa recipients; Spouses of principal U visa recipients; Parents of principal U visa recipients under age 21; and Unmarried siblings under 18 years old of principal U visa recipients under age 21.
Contact the team at Law Group International for a consultation to determine if you, and your family members, are eligible for U visa determination. Feel free to contact us at 703-549-5445 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your consultation.