The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) may be available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered serious mental or physical abuse, and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The creation of the U visa category 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.
An individual may be eligible for a U visa if:
- He/she has been the victim of qualifying criminal activity. Qualifying crimes are abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes based on similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar. Qualifying crimes also include attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these crimes.
- He/she has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to having been a victim of this criminal activity.
- He/she has information about the criminal activity.
- He/she is helpful, was helpful, or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement officials in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- The U visa applicant must be admissible to the U.S., or apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.
One important aspect of the U visa is that a law enforcement agency must certify that the applicant’s help is required to further a criminal investigation or prosecution. It is not enough that an individual suffered harm as a victim of a qualifying crime.
U visas are valid for 4 years, but may be renewed in limited circumstances. The limit on the number of U visas that may be granted to principal petitioners each year is 10,000. However, this U visa cap does not apply to family members deriving status from the principal U visa applicant, such as spouses, children, or other eligible family members. A U visa holder may be eligible to apply for a Green Card if he/she meets certain requirements.
If you have been the victim of a crime, please contact the attorneys at Gavlin & Associates, P.C. to discuss how we can help you apply for a U visa. Our experienced attorneys will work closely with you throughout the U visa process, and help ensure that your application is properly documented and certified by the proper law enforcement agency. Contact is today for a consultation.