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Basics of the U-Visa

Basics of the U-Visa

The U-visa is for immigrants who have been victims of crimes. To qualify for the U-visa, you must have been the victim of certain qualifying crimes in the United States, been helpful to law enforcement, and have suffered substantial physical or mental harm.

Basic U-Visa Requirements

The requirements of the U-visa are found at INA 101§(a)(15)(U). There are four basic requirements for the U-visa:

  1. The applicant must have “suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity;”
  1. The applicant must have first-hand knowledge of the criminal activity;
  1. The applicant “has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful” to the police, a prosecutor, or a judge in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity; and
  1. The criminal activity violated the laws of the United States or occurred in a U.S. territory.

Additionally, the applicant must have been the victim of specific qualifying criminal activity, which can be found in INA 101§(a)(15)(iii). The applicant must have been the victim of “rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; stalking; female genital mutilation; being held hostage; peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping; abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; or fraud in foreign labor contracting.”

Can I Include Family Members in my U-Visa Application?

Yes, if you are under 21, you can include your spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under 18. If you are over 21, you can include your spouse and children (under 21).

You cannot include anyone who was the aggressor or perpetrator of the qualifying criminal activity. For example, if you were the victim of domestic violence at the hands of your husband, you cannot include him in the U-visa application.

U-Visa Application Process

You can file for a U-visa from within the United States, or abroad. There are two distinct applications involved in a U-visa filing (if you are abroad, there will be additional applications).

Application for a U-visa: The first application is the actual application for a U-visa. Through this application, the applicant submits evidence that they were the victim of qualifying criminal activity, and also how they have suffered physically or mentally because of the criminal activity.

An applicant must also include a ‘certification’ from law enforcement (the police, a prosecutor, or judge, or in the case of employment-related crimes, an appropriate labor entity). The agency will certify that you were, in fact, the victim of qualifying criminal activity and that you were helpful or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. In certain situations, being helpful can be as simple as filing a police report.

Application for Waivers: One of the most significant benefits to the U-visa is that an applicant can ask for a waiver for almost any ground of inadmissibility, including prior deportation orders, unlawful entries, smuggling, and having worked without permission.

Work Permit: You can also file for work authorization with the U-visa.

Lawful Permanent Residency

U-visas are issued for four years. After three years, you can file for your lawful permanent residency. You should file for your residency after the 3rd anniversary of your U-visa, but before the U-visa expires.

If you have been the victim of a crime and would like information about the U-visa, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, have experience with U-visa and VAWA applications. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!


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