Purpose of U Visa
A U Visa is designed to assist US investigators and prosecutors of certain criminal activity such as domestic violence, trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation while assisting the alien victims of these qualifying crimes. Through this Visa Aida, a 23-year-old who was brought to the United States from Kyrgyzstan to work as a sex worker may be able to acquire a non-immigrant status that will allow her to live and work freely in the United States and adjust to permanent residence later. The maximum number of aliens who may be issued U Visas each year is set by Congress at 10,000 persons.
U Visa eligibility requirements
To obtain a U Visa an applicant, in this case Aida must show that:
1. She has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
2. She possesses information about that criminal activity;
3. She has been, is being, or is likely to be helpful to Federal, State, or local investigators or prosecutors
4. The criminal activity violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States or in U.S. territories (including Indian reservations).
By being forced to work as a commercial sex worker Aida has been a victim of a qualifying crime. She has information because she has experienced how this commercial sex trade operation works and is likely to be of help to investigators and prosecutors here in the US in seeking to charge and convict the operators who have violated the laws of the United States.
U Visa Certification
To qualify for a U visa, Aida must complete USCIS Form I-918 and provide supporting paperwork. Aida must also obtain a completed certification of helpfulness from a Certifying Official from a Certifying Agency (USCIS Form I-918, Supplement B) verifying that she has been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime perpetrated against her.
How do I find a Certifying Official?
The first step in finding a certifying official begins with finding a certifying agency.
1. Certifying Agency
A Certifying Agency is a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, prosecutor, judge, or other authority, that is responsible for the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying crime or criminal activity. This definition includes agencies that have criminal investigative authority in their own area of expertise. It includes, but is not limited to, child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor.
2. Certifying Official
A Certifying official is:
1) The head of the certifying agency, or
2) Any person in a supervisory role who has been specifically designated by the head of the certifying agency to issue U nonimmigrant status certifications on behalf of that agency; or
3) A Federal, State or local judge
1. File a completed Form I-918 making sure to check that she wants an Employment Authorization Document
2. File Form I-918 Supplement B (completed by Certifying Official) together with supporting documents and in the same mailing as I-918.
3. Submit any trial transcripts, court documents, police reports, orders of protection and, affidavits of other witness such as medical personnel
4. Include a detailed personal statement setting out the substantial physical or mental suffering arising from qualifying crime (the forced commercial and sexual exploitation she suffered).
5. File Form I-912 Request for Waiver of application fees if she is indigent
Later after receiving a notice of action on her petition Aida may later follow-up her initial petition by filing Form I-918 Supplement A to petition for derivative U Visa status for her alien spouse, child and other qualifying family members.
If you have questions about U Visas, consult an immigration attorney who can advise you based on your unique facts.
Attorney Gary D. Goodin, for Immigration Navigator
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