If you are the victim of certain crimes and are able to help law enforcement investigate or prosecute the crime, there is a special visa possibly available for you called the U Visa. With a U Visa, you are given nonimmigrant status, but after three years, you may be eligible for a Green Card. The U Visa is available even if you have entered the U.S. illegally or you are currently in removal proceedings.
You are eligible for a U Visa if you are the victim of a qualifying crime, you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the crime, you have information about the crime, and you can help or have helped U.S. law enforcement investigate or prosecute the crime. The crime does not have to occur in the U.S. and crimes that violate U.S. laws abroad can qualify.
If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime and provide the help to law enforcement on your behalf.
U Visa Cap
There is a yearly limit on the number of U Visas granted. If the cap is reached and you are eligible for a U Visa, you are put on a waiting list, granted deferred action and become eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting. This means you can still stay in the U.S. and work until you get your actual Visa and the applications are processed in the order they are received so it is best to apply as soon as possible.
Derivative U Visas for Family Members
U Visa applicants are able to petition for qualified family members and they are not subject to the U Visa cap. If you are under 21 years old, you may petition your spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18. If you are 21 or older, you may petition your spouse and children.
Applying for a Green Card
After three continuous years of being in the U.S. with a U Visa, you may be eligible for a Green Card if you have not unreasonably refused to assist law enforcement since you received your U visa.
Family members with derivative U Visas are also eligible for Green Cards.
Difference from T Visa for Human Trafficking Victims
While the T Visa is available to the victims of human trafficking only, the U Visa is available to the victims of the other crimes as well. However, victims of human trafficking may be eligible for both the U Visa and the T Visa. Read more about T Visa.
The main difference for the T Visa is that it requires a showing of extreme hardship if denied the Visa, which can be difficult to prove. The U Visa requires a showing of “substantial physical or mental abuse” as a result of the crime.
Another difference is that U Visa applicants must cooperate more thoroughly with law enforcement while T Visa applicants only need to comply with reasonable requests. Furthermore, if you are under 18 at the time of the victimization or unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma, you may qualify for a T Visa without having to assist law enforcement.
Finally, another difference is that with a T Visa, you must have been trafficked into the U.S. from a different country. With the U Visa, you could arrive to the U.S. first and become a victim of human trafficking while in the U.S.
Contact Los Angeles Immigration Center for More Information
U Visas can be very complicated as they require information about the crime, information from law enforcement, and information about how it affected you. If you have questions about U Visas, it is best to contact the Los Angeles Immigration Center to discuss your case.
To schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney, please call (310) 933-4455 or fill out our online form with a brief description of your situation.