What is a U-visa?
A U-visa is a special nonimmigrant status for victims of certain crimes who have suffered from mental or physical abuse and have helped law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of the criminal activity.
Who qualifies for a U-visa?
Not all kinds of crimes qualify as a criminal activity for a U-visa. Along with those criminal activities specified by the USCIS, there are more requirements to be met when applying for a U-visa. The following must be met:
- You are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim;
- You have information about the criminal activity;
- You were helpful, are helpful or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement during the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime;
- The crime occurred in the United States;
- You are admissible to the United States.
Qualifying Crimes eligible for U-Visas:
To qualify for a U-visa, the criminal activity must be one of the following:
- 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
U-Visa application Process:
In order to obtain a U-visa, the investigating authorities must provide a certification indicating the person helped in giving information.
Unfortunately, a limit was placed on the number of U-visas that may be granted each year. Only 10,000 visas are issued every year. Once that cap is reached, petitioners are placed on a waiting list for the following year. In addition, due to long processing times with USCIS, U-visas can take up to 5 years to be adjudicated. In the mean time however, if a U-visa application is pending and is deemed bona fide, the petitioner may be eligible to apply for an employment authorization.