What is a U Visa?
A U Visa, or U non-immigrant status, is an immigration benefit available to individuals who have been victims of certain crimes. In order to qualify for a U Visa, an applicant must show he or she:
- Was the victim of a “qualifying criminal activity,” which happened in the United States or violated a U.S. law;
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a complete list of qualifying crimes on their website.
- Suffered substantial physical or mental harm as a result of the crime;
- Cooperated with law enforcement or another government agency (such as the District Attorney’s Office) in the investigation or prosecution of the crime;
- Is eligible to immigrate to the United States (or is eligible for a waiver).
How do I apply for a U Visa?
The first step in applying for a U Visa is obtaining a signed certification from the police department or other government agency which investigated or prosecuted the crime. Most immigration law offices, including Lopez Immigration Law, request these certifications from law enforcement on behalf of the victim.
It is important to note police departments and other government agencies have discretion and are not required to sign certifications. Without a signed certification, an applicant is not eligible to apply for a U Visa with USCIS.
Once a certification is obtained, the second step is to apply for a U Visa with USCIS. When the application is filed, the applicant must submit evident of the harm they suffered. This can include police reports, medical records, and photos, among other documents.
Can I include my family in my application?
Yes, the principal applicant (the victim) can also include an application for certain family members. The family members do not need to show they were also a victim of the crime; however, there are certain requirements they must meet. Below is a useful chart which shows which family members can be included:
|If the principal applicant is:||He or she can include:|
|Over 21 years of age:||Spouse, children under 21 years of age|
|Under 21 years of age:||Parents, spouse, children under 21 years of age, unmarried siblings under 18 years of age|
If a U Visa is approved for a principal applicant or a derivative, it is valid for a period of four years. Most applicants may apply for lawful permanent residency after three years in valid U Visa status. Of course, they must meet the requirements for lawful permanent residency, which are different than the requirements for a U Visa.
How long does the U Visa application process take?
The short answer is it could take several years. USCIS receives a high volume of U Visa applications and it takes some time to review each application. Currently, USCIS is reviewing applications it received in June, 2014. You can find the current processing time here.
Once an application is reviewed and is approved, USCIS must determine whether there is a U Visa available for the application. USCIS has 10,000 U Visas it may grant to principal applicants per year. If there are no more visas available for that year, the applicant is placed on a waiting list. While they are waiting for a U Visa to become available for them, they are granted deferred action. Once granted deferred action, the person is able to apply for work authorization.
How much does the U Visa application cost?
The application form for the U Visa does not have a filing fee. However, if you need a waiver because you are ineligible for the visa, you may have to pay a filing fee for the waiver. In many cases, the applicant is eligible to apply for a fee waiver. Lopez Immigration Law can help you determine whether you need to pay any filing fees.
For information on your specific situation, we recommend you use our contact form to schedule an appointment with our office. We would be glad to help you determine the best option for you.
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