What is a U Visa?
A U Visa is a non-immigrant visa available to non-citizens who are victims of certain qualifying criminal activity including domestic violence in the United States.They must have been helpful or are likely to be helpful to investigators or prosecutors of criminal activity. It is not enough to be a helpful witness the applicant must be the victim of certain qualifying criminal activity.
What are the benefits of U Visas?
U Visa holders are granted Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) allowing them to work legally in the United States.
For those green card holders who find themselves in removal proceedings, a U visa may allow them to remain in the United States. This potential benefit is a very important one that may be overlooked.
U Visas are normally issued for four years. The spouse (at the time of application) and children of the principal applicant (even unborn at the time of application) may be eligible for derivative U visa status.
Who qualifies for a U visa?
Any non-citizen of the United States – Green card holders, those with non-immigrant status, in or out of status, and undocumented persons may apply for a U Visa provided they are victims of qualifying criminal activity and meet other qualifying requirements. The applicant need not be present in the United States at the time he or she applies. But the non-citizen must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of qualifying criminal activity.
What is qualifying criminal activity?
- domestic violence;
- sexual assault;
- abusive sexual contact;
- sexual exploitation;
10. female genital mutilation;
11. being held hostage;
13. involuntary servitude;
14. slave trade; kidnapping;
16. unlawful criminal restraint;
17. false imprisonment;
22. felonious assault;
23. witness tampering;
24. obstruction of justice;
26. attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes, or
27. any similar criminal activity.
There is no requirement that the criminal activity of which the non-citizen is a victim be the same one as that being investigated by law enforcement. In the midst of an investigation into embezzlement (a non-qualifying criminal activity), for example, the non-citizen witness may become the victim of threats intended to force her not to cooperate with investigators – obstruction of justice (a qualifying criminal activity).
What should I do if I suspect I qualify for a U Visa?
Any non-citizen who suspects that he qualifies for a U visa should consult an Immigration Attorney for legal advice based on his specific circumstances.
A non-citizen with a pending removal proceeding who suspects that she qualifies for a U visa based on being a victim of qualifying criminal activity should bring this information to her immigration attorney at once.
U Visas, Application Information (Part 2 of 2) will deal with the Certification Requirement and the application procedure for a U-Visa.
Attorney Gary Goodin, for Immigration Navigator ™
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