Whether You Qualify for a U Visa & How to Obtain Such a Visa
Qualifying and obtaining a U-Visa is a complex and fact specific process and the information below is a general overview. Please consult with an attorney at Theta Law Firm with your specific facts. An attorney is vital to help guide you and your family through the process of obtaining a U-Visa and eventually permanent residency.
Do you qualify for a U-Visa?
The U-Visa has been set up for victims of particular criminal activity who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U-Visa grants non-immigrant status for such an individual, and can potentially open the door for the individual to obtain a green card and receive permanent residency. An attorney at Theta Law Firm can help guide you as to whether or not you qualify for the U-Visa and work with all corresponding agencies to make sure all the necessary paperwork is filled out and timely filed.
To be eligible for a U-Visa you must meet all four of the following requirements:
1. Must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
2. Must have information concerning that criminal activity.
3. Must have been helpful, currently are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying crime.
4. And the criminal activity must have violated U.S. laws.
If you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being the victim of the following crimes on U.S. soil, the first requirement is met:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Genital Female Mutilation
- False Imprisonment
- Felonious Assault
- Being Held Hostage
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trader
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other similar activity in violation of federal, state, or local criminal law
Next, you must obtain certification from a law enforcement official, prosecutor, judge, USCIC official, child protective services, or other federal or state authority tasked with detecting, investigating, or prosecuting the qualifying criminal activity. This certification is in regards to requirements 2-4 for U-Visa eligibility.
The Steps to Obtain a U-Visa
If you meet the above eligibility requirements for a U-Visa there are several steps in order to file for and obtain U-Visa status.
1. The foreign national victim must fully complete and file U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. This form requests:
- information regarding the petitioners eligibility for such status
- information regarding admissibility into the United States
- that the victim meets all of the U-Visa requirements
- specific details about the nature of the crime being investigated or prosecuted
- description of the victims helpfulness in the case
Petitioning For A U-Visa When Outside the United States
It is also possible to apply for a U-Visa from outside the United States if the qualifying criminal activity happened within the United States and you are providing help to a valid United States law enforcement agency. However, the process may be more difficult when applying from outside the United States and consulting with an attorney at Theta Law Firm is recommended.
Obtaining U-Visa Status for Family Members If You Qualify
In some cases it is possible to obtain U-Visa status for family members of the person that qualifies.
- If the person that qualifies for U-Visa status is under twenty-one years of age, they may also petition to obtain U-Visa status for a spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under the age of eighteen.
- If the person that qualifies for U-Visa status is twenty-one years of age or older, they may petition to obtain U-Visa status for a spouse or their children.
Applying For Permanent Residency
After three years of continuous presence in the United States, a U-Visa holder is allowed to apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident and obtain a green card.
Continuous presence means that if the applicant departed the United States for any single period of time longer than ninety days, or for shorter periods of time that together exceed one hundred and eighty days, the applicant must include a certification from the original law enforcement agency that verified the applicant having helped the agency. This certification must verify that the absence from the country was necessary and justified for the investigation or prosecution.
Besides the three years of continuous presence requirement, the other two requirements necessary to apply for permanent residency are:
- That the individual did not unreasonably refuse to provide assistance to law enforcement since receiving a U-Visa
- The certifying agency determines that the individual's continued presence in the country is justified on humanitarian grounds to ensure continuation of a cohesive family, or it is in the national or public interest that the individual be allowed to remain.
There are two separate ways that family members of a U-Visa holder can apply for legal residency depending on their status:
1. If a U-Visa holders family members have never obtained U-Visa status themselves based on the holders' eligibility they may still possibly obtain permanent resident status if:
- They are the spouse, children, or parents of the U-Visa holder, and
- They were never admitted to the United States in U-Visa status, and
- It is established that either the family member or the U-Visa holder would suffer extreme hardship if the family member is not allowed to remain in or be admitted to the United States
- The original U-Visa holder has met the eligibility requirements (three years continuous presence, did not unreasonably refuse to provide assistance to law enforcement since receiving the U-Visa, and the certifying agency that the individual was helping determines the person's continued presence is justified), and
- The original U-Visa holders adjustment application for adjustment of status to permanent resident was approved, is pending, or is filed at the same time, and
- The qualifying family members with their own U-Visa status file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
2. If U-Visa holders' family members have obtained U-Visa status themselves through the filing of Form I-918, Supplement A, discussed above, the family members can themselves also become eligible for a green card. They are eligible if:
 Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, may be found at: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-918.pdf.
 Form I-918 Supplement B, may be found at: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-918supb.pdf.
 Form I-912, Request for a fee waiver may be found at: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-912.pdf.
Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient, may be found at: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-918supa.pdf.
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