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Understanding U Visas And Their Purpose

U visas are a vital lifeline for victims of serious crimes in the United States. In this article, we'll delve into the multifaceted world of this visa and explore the primary purpose of a U visa in the United States. Continue reading to discover how they:

  • Safeguard noncitizen victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
  • Foster collaboration between victims and law enforcement to combat crime and promote justice.
  • Provide temporary stay, work authorization, and hope for a brighter, safer future.

What Is a U Visa?

A U visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to victims of specific crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and have cooperated with law enforcement or government officials in investigating or prosecuting criminal activities.

These visas serve multiple essential purposes, including:

  • Protection for Noncitizen Victims: Providing protection and support to noncitizen victims of serious crimes.
  • Promoting Cooperation: The U visa fosters collaboration between law enforcement agencies and victims to enhance the identification, inquiry, and legal pursuit of significant offenses, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
  • Encouraging Reporting: The U visa cultivates an environment where victims can report crimes committed against them and participate in the investigation and prosecution processes, irrespective of their immigration status.
  • Enhancing Community Safety: The U Visa bolsters relationships between law enforcement and noncitizens, contributing to safer communities.
  • Temporary Stay and Work Authorization: U visa holders can temporarily stay and work in the United States, typically for four years.

Who Can Apply for a U Visa?

U visa eligibility extends to:

The direct victim of the qualifying crime who has suffered direct harm.

  • Bystanders who have suffered an unusually direct injury due to a qualifying crime.
  • Indirect victims with qualifying family relationships to the direct victim, depending on the victim's age and circumstances.
  • Victims of qualifying crimes involving murder, manslaughter, or incapacitation.

Incidentally, an annual cap of 10,000 U visas is granted to principal petitioners each year. Individuals in removal proceedings or with a final removal order can still apply for a U visa.

How Can An Applicant Demonstrate Eligibility?

To qualify for a U nonimmigrant visa, you must demonstrate:

  • Victimhood related to specific criminal activities, including:
    • Abduction;
    • Abusive Sexual Contact;
    • Blackmail;
    • Domestic Violence;
    • Extortion;
    • False Imprisonment;
    • Felonious Assault;
    • Female Genital Mutilation;
    • 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.
  • Proof of substantial mental or physical abuse suffered in the United States.

Victims of domestic violence can qualify for a U visa by meeting specific requirements, including presence in the U.S. at the time of abuse, having credible information, assisting law enforcement, suffering substantial abuse, and being admissible to the United States.

What Is The Role of Law Enforcement Certification In The U Visa Application Process?

A Law Enforcement Certification, Form I-918B, is crucial evidence that victims submit to USCIS to establish U visa eligibility. This certification, completed and signed by law enforcement or certifying agencies involved in the criminal activity's investigation or prosecution, is submitted by the victim along with their U visa petition.

Victims can meet the helpfulness requirement based on past, present, or future cooperation with law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, or government officials in detecting, investigating, or prosecuting qualifying criminal activity. The timing of the helpfulness is not the key factor; it's the victim's overall cooperation.

Can Family Members Receive Derivative U Visas?

Certain qualifying family members can receive derivative U visas based on their relationship with the principal U visa applicant. They do not need to meet the same eligibility requirements as the principal applicant but must have a qualifying relationship.

Incidentally, U visa holders can petition on behalf of their spouse and children for immigration benefits. To petition for a qualified family member, they must file a Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient, at the same time as your application or at a later time.

Widespread Protection For Crime Victims With U Visas

The U nonimmigrant status or U visa is there to help victims of crimes that have suffered mental or physical abuse and that are helpful, have been helpful, or may be helpful in the future to law enforcement or other government officials during the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.

To be eligible for this category it is necessary that the victim has suffered substantial mental or physical abuse in the United States.

It is also important that the victim has as much information and evidence of the crime as possible.

It is not necessary; however, that someone had been arrested or convicted of the crime. There is also no statute of limitations or time limit on how long ago the crime occurred.

The victim may apply for a U visa in the United States or outside the United States.

If you have an approved U Visa and you are outside of the United States you must apply for a U visa at the US Embassy or Consulate in your country of permanent residency. Interviews are generally not required if you are 13 and younger or over 80 years old; however, if you are between the ages of 14 and 79 an interview is almost always required.

The U Visa eligibility is determined by USCIS and not by law enforcement even though law enforcement is a very important part of the U visa process due to the fact that law enforcement is who determines whether you are a victim of a qualifying crime and whether you have been, are, and/or may be helpful to them in the future.

For more information on Primary Purpose Of A U-Visa In The US, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (305) 907-6151 today.

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Attorney Magdalena Cuprys is a seasoned immigration lawyer based in Orlando and Coral Gables, Florida. With three languages under her belt and years of legal experience working with immigrants of all kinds, she brings considerable experience and insight to the field and works hard to explain immigration concepts, empower future citizens, and keep current and prospective immigrants up to date on US immigration law.

Connect with her firm, Serving Immigrants, to stay updated on the latest developments in United States immigration law and gain valuable insights needed to navigate the challenging legal landscape of immigration in Florida. 

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