If you ever wondered what’s the purpose of a U Visa, this article is for you.
The U Visa was created for immigrants who have been victims of crimes such as domestic violence or exploitation. It gives victims the opportunity to stay in the country with their family members while being useful to law enforcement and even allows them to apply for a Green Card in the future.
This type of visa was created with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The program has been recently expanded to include human trafficking and other crimes such as blackmail, extortion, and stalking.
The main purpose of the U visa is to encourage immigrants to report crimes that they would not have otherwise reported and to keep them safe during the investigation. And, although it was created with domestic violence in mind, it has expanded and today it also covers a wide range of crimes, including those related to workplace abuse.
What are the benefits of having a U Visa?
A U Visa allows you to legally reside in the United States for a maximum of 4 years, and this includes members of your immediate family as long as their qualify. During that time, you will be able to work without restrictions of any kind, and after 3 years, you will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence and obtain a Green Card.
What are the requirements to obtain a U Visa?
Before you can apply for a U Visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must consider yourself the victim of a qualifying crime. This crime must be reported and thoroughly investigated.
- You must have information about the crime, and that information must be useful.
- You must be willing to cooperate or have cooperated with the investigation as well as the prosecution of the criminal activities.
- You have to be able to prove that the crime you are reporting took place in the USA or that it violated local, state, or federal laws.
- You must have been authorized to enter the United States. But, if that is not the case, you may still be able to apply for a waiver.
If you meet these requirements, do not hesitate to call us so we can help you obtain your U Visa as soon as possible.
What crimes qualify for a U visa?
US Immigration authorities have new guidelines for qualifying criminal activity that could make a person eligible for U Visa status. It is an exhaustive list of behaviors that includes some crimes such as stalking or assaulting immigrants because of their race or national origin.
Some of the qualifying crimes include:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Involuntary servitude
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Unlawful criminal restraints
What happens after a U visa is approved?
After an application for a U Visa is approved, USCIS will send the applicant the following documents:
- A U Visa approval notice
- An I-765 approval notice
- Employment Authorization for the US
- An I-192 approval notice
The whole process should not take more than a month, and after receiving these documents, you will be able to work and travel in the United States without restrictions. However, it is not recommended to travel outside the country during the first three years.
Unfortunately, when it comes to public benefits, U Visa holders do not have access to health and social security programs like Medicaid, SSI, and TANF. However, you may still be eligible for other programs designed for immigrants. It is also recommended that you obtain a social security card.
Is there an annual limit to how many U Visa applications can be processed?
Yes. Unfortunately, the limit of U Visas that can be granted to applicants each year is 10,000. But don’t worry, this cap only applies to principal petitioners, meaning that there is no limit for family members deriving status from your application, such as spouses or children.
Also, when the cap is reached before all U Visa applications have been granted, USCIS creates a special waiting list for any petitioners awaiting a final decision. While on this waiting list, you will be granted deferred action or parole and will be able to apply to obtain a work permit.
Adjustment of status after three years
As a U Visa holder, you may be eligible to adjust your status and become a lawful permanent resident after three years of continuous presence within the borders of the United States. Keep in mind that you must have a valid U Visa on the date you file Form I-485, so don’t wait until the last minute to start the process.
You will be asked to provide proof of a variety of issues, such as evidence that you have been helpful in the investigation of the crime, a self-declaration attesting to three years of continuous presence, as well as many other different documents.
If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 281-606-5362!