What is a U-Visa?
The U-Visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to individuals who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of certain qualifying criminal activities, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes. This visa offers temporary legal status to victims and allows them to remain in the United States for up to four years.
Benefits of the U-Visa
Obtaining a U Visa provides various benefits for immigrant crime victims:
- Legal Status: U-Visa recipients are granted legal status, which protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally in the United States.
- Work Authorization: U-Visa holders can obtain work authorization, enabling them to support themselves and their families while they cooperate with law enforcement.
- Path to Permanent Residency: After holding a U Visa for three years, individuals may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (green card), providing a pathway to long-term stability and integration in the United States.
- Protection for Family Members: Certain qualifying family members of U Visa applicants may also be eligible for derivative U Visas, ensuring they can remain together and receive the necessary protection.
- Access to Public Benefits: U-Visa holders may be eligible to access public benefits and services that can support their recovery and overall well-being.
To be eligible for a U-Visa, individuals must meet specific requirements:
- They must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of a qualifying criminal activity.
- They must possess credible and reliable information about the crime.
- They must have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- If the victim is under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist in the application process.
The U-Visa Application Process
The U Visa application process involves several steps:
- The victim must complete and submit Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, along with supporting documents.
- If the U Visa application is approved, the applicant will be granted deferred action, allowing them to stay in the United States legally.
- The applicant may also be eligible to apply for employment authorization by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
- Once approved, the applicant can legally work in the United States.</li