U Visa: A Guide
The U.S. and its territories operate like true first world countries. But that doesn’t mean it is crime-free and unfortunately, some people suffer because of it. There is however a glimmer of hope for foreigners who suffered in the U.S. because of crime. They may be able to get a specific type of visa to live and work here for a temporary period of time.
The U visa is available to people from abroad who suffered as a result of crime in the U.S. and its territories. Here you can find how it works and how you can possibly apply for it.
What is a U Visa?
The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa for people who have suffered as a result of crime in the U.S. It allows them to stay and work in the U.S. for a temporary period of time, but at the conclusion of the visa’s validity period, the beneficiary must move back to their country of residence. The beneficiary must also prove they have cooperated with law enforcement to track and try to stop the crime in question. A U visa usually has a maximum validity of 4 years.
U visa beneficiaries gain the following privileges:
- Access to financial services like opening a bank account
- Opportunities to work in the U.S.
- The right to enroll in academic or vocational institutions
- The right to apply for a driver’s license
The U.S. government created the visa to encourage non-citizens to cooperate with the state without fear of deportation whenever they are the victims of crimes. But note there are only specific types of crime that qualifies someone for a U visa.
U Visa Qualifying Crimes
Here follows a list of the crimes that could possibly qualify someone for a U visa:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Felonious assault
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Other related crimes including attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation of any of these offenses, or similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
Your case is unique and it may require you to use the services of an immigration attorney. They’ll have to file a Form G-28 to confirm they are your legal advisors.
U Visa Requirements
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to fulfill some eligibility requirements before you can file for a U visa. You need to comply with the following:
- You must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of a qualifying criminal activity
- You must have information concerning that criminal activity
- You must have been or in the process of helping in the investigation regarding the criminal activity
- The criminal activity violated U.S. laws (on U.S. territories).
Without fulfilling these requirements, you won’t be able to apply for a U visa. Make sure you have proof that substantiates each requirement.
How to Apply for a U Visa
The types of scenarios possible are countless. It’s difficult to explain your exact route towards a U visa. So we’ll cover the basics.
This is the basic form required in the application for a U visa. Form I-918 is also called a Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. Follow the instructions supplied on the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website. They even give you the mailing address for your application.
Filing for a Qualifying Family Member
Under certain circumstances, you are able to file for your immediate family members like your spouse and children. An immigration attorney will help you with the best possible advice about how to go about this.
Filing from Abroad
If you are still in a foreign country, you may file your petition to the Vermont Service Center. File your Form I-918 form abroad to the address supplied by the USCIS. Once your petition is approved you need to follow the consular processing route to get your visa. This means you’ll have to complete a series of interviews and appointments at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You can find a list of consulates and embassies at the following web address www.usembassy.gov.
Someone who is inadmissible may not enter the U.S. based on some verdict or decision by U.S. immigration officials. There is a process that could possibly help someone to waiver their inadmissibility. They’ll need to file Form I-192 which is called an Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant. Follow the instructions to still get a U visa. There are different grounds for someone’s inadmissibility to be waived, but there is a specific category for people looking to get a U Nonimmigrant Status.
U Visa Cost
Most types of petitions have a filing fee. The application for a U visa has no filing fee, however. You may just need to pay for a biometric screening test if you have an appointment at a U.S. consulate. These appointments usually cost $85, but is subject to change.
If you are required to pay a filing fee you can always consider applying with a Request for Fee Waiver (Form I-912). Make sure you qualify for your fees to be waived before you apply.
U Visa Processing Time
The usual processing period for a U visa takes between 12 and 18 months. But beware, there is a yearly cap of 10,000 U visas allowed by the U.S. government. Once the cap is met applicants are placed on a waiting list until there is a visa ready to be allocated to them. Therefore, it’s possible that you might wait longer than 18 months if there is a sudden increase in U visa applications.
U Visa to Green Card
The beneficiary of a U visa has the opportunity to petition for a Green Card (permanent residency) after they have lived in the U.S. for at least 3 years. They have to follow the U visa to Green Card process. Even the family members of a U visa holder are eligible for a Green Card if they meet the requirements.
The USCIS is very mindful of your situation since you are a victim of serious crimes. They are not allowed to deny your request for a Green Card solely based on the information supplied by the criminals who victimized you. Your information remains confidential and your safety still remains a high priority.
Foreign victims of crimes committed on U.S. soil have an opportunity to help U.S. law enforcement to track and stop those crimes. The U visa serves as a way to encourage you to comply with the processes of bringing those criminals to justice.
Make sure you are eligible for the visa and work with the authorities to increase your chances of success. File your Form I-918 today and submit your Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.