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What Are U Nonimmigrant Green Cards?
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 created two new visa types, the “T” visa for victims of severe human trafficking and the “U” visa for immigrant victims of serious crimes. This page will be dedicated to U visas and provide information about how an immigration lawyer can help immigrant survivors of criminal activity and violence.
The United States immigration law allows noncitizens who have been victims of certain types of crimes to be granted U Nonimmigrant status (also known as a U Visa) to get their green cards and become lawful U.S. residents. To qualify for a green card via the U Visa, you must have U nonimmigrant status and meet certain eligibility requirements. U visas are set aside for individuals who suffer substantial physical or mental abuse and that are also helpful to the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity happening.
Eligibility of U Visas
To be eligible for a green card with a U distinction, you must meet the following requirements:
- You were or are a victim of criminal activities defined by the USCIS (see below qualifying criminal activities)
- You suffered significant physical or mental abuse because of the crime
- You can provide information about the criminal activity committed
- You are able and willing to help law enforcement in the investigation and / or prosecution of the crime
- The crime that affected you took place in the United States or violated United States law
- You are physically living in the United States for a consecutive time period of at least 3 years in a row since admitted as a U nonimmigrant
- You are admissible to the U.S. If you are not admissible under INA section 212(a)(3)(E), speak with a qualified immigration lawyer about your situation
Eligibility for Family Members
Family members of an immigrant victim of violence may also be eligible for U Visas. These include spouses (who were married before the application was filed) known as U-2 visas, U-3 visas for children, and u-4 visas for parents. Siblings and parents will be eligible if the victim of crime was a minor at the time of the incident.
In addition, indirect and bystander victims are also eligible to apply in certain circumstances (such as a person in the line of fire during a shooting, or a murder victim’s family members).
Qualifying Criminal Activities
One of the main requirements of eligibility of a U Nonimmigrant visa is to support an investigation or prosecution of criminal activity happening in your situation. Below are a list of qualified criminal activity:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Genital mutilation (female)
- Felony assault
- Foreign labor contracting fraud
- Hostage situations
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful criminal restraint
This is not an exhaustive list and includes any similar activity where elements of the crime are similar to any of the above illegal criminal activities.
Are There Any U Visa Limits?
Each year, there are limits on the number of U visas given out. For U-1 visas, only 10,000 are given out each year in the U.S. However, there is no limit on family members. If all 10,000 have been handed out, the USCIS will create a waiting list for petitioners. Petitioners will then be granted deferred action or parole and are eligible to apply for work authorization until more U visas come available the following year (Because of these numerical limitations, the wait for this visa is over 5 years at present).
Have specific questions about your case? Schedule an immigration strategy session to answer any questions you may have.
What are the Benefits of Getting a U Visa?
Getting approved for a U visa can offer you several benefits including:
- Temporary immigration status for you as well as work authorization in the U.S. for 4 years
- A possibility of obtaining lawful permanent residence status
- Temporary immigration status for qualifying family members
In addition, obtaining a U visa can provide you with a path to citizenship. After 3 years, it’s important to talk with an immigration lawyer to help you obtain a green card.
Most people who file for the U visa will need a waiver to forgive some issue of inadmissibility or deportability, including unlawful presence, crimes, deportations, etc. The U visa waiver is the broadest and most forgiving waiver available in immigration law.
Bona Fide Determination
On June 14, 2021, USCIS began vetting cases to make sure they seem eligible for all the main elements of the U Visa early in the process, which it has called making a "Bona Fide Determination." If your case passes the Bona Fide Determination stage, you will be issued a Notice of Action that states that, allowing you to qualify for a work permit while your case is pending. Cases that were already pending as of June 14, 2021 are also in line to receive a Bona Fide Determination, starting with the oldest cases first. Click here for more information about the BFD process: "National Engagement - U Visa and Bona Fide Determination Process"
How Can An Immigration Lawyer Help With Filing a U Visa Request for Victims of Crimes?
When you’re considering whether to file for a U Visa because you’re a victim of a criime(s) AND are ready to work with federal agencies to support an investigation into one of the above crimes committed, hiring an immigration lawyer can be invaluable. An Immigration lawyer can:
- Review the strength of your case with you
- Put together the best possible case for your unique situation
- File all necessary paperwork at the right times
- Help guide you through the process
Filing the proper evidence is crucial to obtaining your U visa. In fact, according to the USCIS, the main reason why a person’s U visa application is denied is on the basis of missing evidence, as well as other reasons such as inadmissibility, criminal activity, abandonment, non-qualifying criminal activity, and no signs of substance harm.
If you’re contemplating filing a U Visa, our recommendation is that you hire an immigration lawyer with a proven track record of helping victims of crime. We can provide you with guidance to make sure you meet the requirements for U visas, help you with all steps involved, and help you build your strongest case.
Thinking About Filing a Victims of Crimes Immigration Green Card? Hire a Top Immigration Lawyer in Miami, Florida
Are you a victim of crime and looking for help to petition for a U Visa for you and your family? You’ve come to the right place. Immigration Lawyers USA are top immigration lawyers in Miami, Florida and are able to help you navigate the complexities of applying and qualifying for a victims of crime U Visa. If you need help with your specific case, give Immigration Lawyers USA a call at 305-501-0783 or contact us here to schedule your consultation.