What is a U-Visa?
November 29, 2019
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 established a new precedent, the U-visa. This visa was created for immigrants that fell victim to serious crimes, allowing them to stay in the U.S. to help law enforcement with information that could help find and prosecute the criminal offenders.
Those that are approved for U-1 visas may be given legal status for up to four years, and those that have U-visas for three or more years may be able to apply for permanent legal residence. If the U-1 nonimmigrant has family members, they may be eligible for U-visas as well, including:
- Your spouse
- Unmarried children under 21-years-old
- Your parents
- Unmarried siblings under 18-years-old
Applying for a U-Visa
Immigrants that have green cards can speak with an immigration lawyer if they wish to apply for a U-visa. Those without immigration papers or with expired papers may also apply outside of the United States at a U.S. consulate office. There are specific forms, including Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, to be filled out, plus supporting documents. Once completed, they must be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Although having a lawyer is not mandatory, it is helpful to have assistance with this paperwork.
Applicants must also fill out a certificate of helpfulness to prove the physical or mental abuse by a U.S. perpetrator. Additional documentation, such as affidavits from physicians and social workers, copies of medical records, and photographs, may be helpful in supporting the claim. If there are any past immigration violations, this may halt the process and require more documentation. It can take from six to nine months for denial or approval of a U application, and sometimes longer if more information is needed. If the government needs a waiver form filled out, there will be a fee for this, although those who cannot afford it can request that it be waived.
To qualify for a U-visa, applicants must meet certain guidelines. An immigrant must be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity that took place in the U.S. and/or violated U.S. law. This also includes bystanders who witnessed crimes. Qualifications include victims of human trafficking, forced labor, murder, manslaughter, rape, sexual assault, robbery, perjury, and fraud in foreign labor contracting. The victim must have experienced significant mental or physical abuse.
The criminal activity does not have to be completed for someone to apply for a U-visa. If a crime is underway or attempted, it is possible to begin the application process. Applicants must also possess helpful information about the criminal activity and be willing to assist law enforcement to help bring the crimes’ perpetrators to justice. Applicants must be admissible to the U.S. or apply for a waiver using Form I-192: Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Help Individuals Applying for U-Visas
Applying for a U-visa can be overwhelming, and the experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC are here to help. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call us at 215-496-0690 today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.