As a Miami immigration attorney, I sometimes receive questions about the U visa, and kinds of immigrants that are eligible for relief under the U visa. Below are some frequently asked questions.
What is the U visa?
The U non-immigrant status (U visa) is set aside 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 criminal activity.
Why was the U non-immigrant visa created?
Congress created the U non-immigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
Who is eligible for a U non-immigrant visa?
You may be eligible for a U non-immigrant visa if:
- You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
- You have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf
- You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- You are admissible to the United States. If you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver
What kinds of qualifying criminal activities are covered under the U non-immigrant visa?
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other Related Crimes
How does one go about applying (petitioning) for U non-immigrant status?
To apply (petition) for a U non-immigrant status, your Miami immigration attorney may help you prepare and submit Form I-198, the Petition for U non-immigrant status, as well as Form I-198, Supplement B, U Non-immigrant Status Certification. There are other important supporting documents and/or documentation that need to be filed along with your petition, which may differ on a case by case basis.
If you or a loved one are thinking of applying for U non-immigrant status, I would strongly advise you to consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.
If I live outside the United States, can I still apply for the U non-immigrant status?
Yes, you may also apply (petition) for U non-immigrant status if you are outside the United States. If your petition is approved, you must go through what is known as “consular processing” to enter the United States. Again, I would strongly suggest that you speak with an immigration attorney to discuss your options.
What happens after my U non-immigrant visa is granted? Can I extend it?
When U non-immigrant status is granted, it is valid for four years. However, extensions are available in certain, limited circumstances if the extension is:
- Needed based on a request from law enforcement,
- Needed based on exceptional circumstances,
- Needed due to delays in consular processing, or
- Automatically extended upon the filing and pendency of an application for adjustment (application for a Green Card).
If you believe that any of the circumstances above apply to your case, I would encourage you to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.
Am I eligible to apply for a Green Card after my U non-immigrant visa is granted?
The short answer is yes. You may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (adjustment of status/permanent residence). However, you must meet certain requirements, including but not limited to the following:
- You have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years while in U non-immigrant status, and
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.
If you think would like more information on the U non-immigrant visa, please contact Miami immigration attorney Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305)895-2500 or visit our website at www. mmurraylaw.com