Being victim of a crime is nothing nice and its effects can extend to many areas and for many years, depending on the severity. The U.S. immigration system recognizes that foreign-born victims might be best served on certain occasions by being provided an alternative to remaining inside the U.S. lawfully instead of being removed back to their country of origin. It is not a good position to be in being victim of a crime, but these benefits allow for potentially something good to come out of something tragic and help the survivor in the process of moving on and rebuilding a life. There are several avenues for this to happen. We want to focus this entry on the U non-immigrant status, which is popularly known as “U visa”.
The benefit allows the eligible applicant to obtain legal status in the U.S. for 4 years and authorization to work for those four years as well. Once the applicant has been in status for three years, they become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (“green card”). This benefit is available to the principal applicant, their spouses, and unmarried children under 21 years old. If the beneficiary is a minor, the benefit might extend to their parents and unmarried siblings under 18 years old. The principal beneficiary has to be in the US to apply and obtain the benefit, but the derivatives can be outside the US.
To be eligible for this benefit the person has to have suffered from one of the criminal activity typified in the statute. Most of them are crimes of violence and of a certain severity. The person to qualify has to have been useful in the investigation and/or prosecution of the case (law enforcement has to verify this, more on this below) and has to have a clean criminal record themselves. Other requirements might be part of the process.
The status of the perpetrator of the crime or their relationship to the victim is irrelevant for purposes of obtaining the benefit. The criminal activity might be domestic violence perpetrated by an intimate partner or it might be random violence in the street perpetrated by a complete stranger.
One of the essential elements of a U nonimmigrant status application is the law enforcement certification. This document is an official form that the law enforcement in charge of the investigation or prosecution of the case produces and signs. In this document, the law enforcement agency confirms that the person was a victim, describes the particular crime, and verifies that the victim has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful to them. Without this document, an application cannot be filed.
U nonimmigrant status applications are complex processes, they are demanding on the legal side to make sure that all the evidence is there and in the right way, but they are also grueling emotionally on the applicants. They have to relieve a fair amount of the trauma in order to convey their claim to the government. Our office has been successfully handling these types of applications for many years. Our staff is sensitive to the complexities of these cases and we work hand in hand with local law enforcement, justice centers, and shelters. If you think you might qualify for this benefit, schedule a consultation and we will explore your possibilities.