Immigration Lawyer – Visas for Victims of Violent Crimes
U.S. immigration law offers a special temporary visa for the victims of violent crimes. Created in 2000 through an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act, U visas are for victims of violent crime who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. An immigration lawyer can help you determine whether a U visa is right for your situation.
There are a number of conditions that applicants for U visas must meet in order to qualify. The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a violent crime victim. They must possess information about the criminal activity, and must have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The crime must be a crime under the laws of the United States, including state or federal criminal codes, and a U.S. law enforcement agency must certify that the victim is, was, or will likely be helpful in the investigation/prosecution of the crime, which means that law enforcement must be interested in investigating or prosecuting the crime.
The types of crimes that make a victim eligible to apply for a U visa include rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, extortion, manslaughter, murder, and obstruction of justice, or an attempt to commit any of these crimes. The definition of these crimes is often a function of state rather than federal law; discuss any questions with an immigration lawyer.
The U visa can be issued for up to four years. Recipients are authorized to work in the United States. U visa holders under the age of 21 can apply to bring their parents, spouse, children, and unmarried siblings under 18 to the United States. Holders over the age of 21 can apply to bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. There is a cap of 10,000 U visas per year, not including derivative beneficiaries. U visa holders can apply for legal permanent resident status up to 90 days before the three-year anniversary of their holding U visa status if they have maintained continuous presence in the United States. Once the holder’s application for legal permanent residence status is pending, they remain in U status until their application is adjudicated.
In order to apply for a U visa, applicants must fill out the I-918 application form and supplementary forms for qualifying family members. There is no filing fee for the I-918. Applicants who have grounds of inadmissibility such as undocumented entry or other immigration status violations must file the I-192 form to waive such grounds of inadmissibility.
To find out more about your potential U visa qualification, consult with an immigration lawyer.