Illegal immigrants are five to ten times more likely to be victims of crime than others in the United States. Undocumented immigrants have a significant potential deterrent to reporting crime: the threat of deportation.
If you are an undocumented immigrant and have been the victim of a particular crime, you may be eligible to receive a U visa.
This visa category provides valid nonimmigrant status, legal authorization to work in the United States, and a potential path toward lawful permanent residency. If you have been a human trafficking victim or domestic violence victim, you may also be eligible for other immigration benefits beyond the U visa. View our articles on VAWA petitions and T visas to know more about these types of visas.
Remember, immigration law is highly complex. You should discuss your situation with an experienced New Jersey immigration attorney to understand all available legal options.
Why do I need a U Visa Immigration Attorney?
In obtaining a U visa, you must demonstrate that you were a victim of a qualifying crime that caused substantial harm to your mental or physical state. Such requisites are not easy to prove, especially if you do not know any laws. Taking this on by yourself might result in a confusing mess. If you want to avoid it, get legal help from an experienced New Jersey law firm like Andres Mejer Law.
Andres Mejer, an immigrant and immigration lawyer, has years of experience practicing law, especially immigration law. He offers quality legal service to his clients who seek legal remedies for their immigration matters. Throughout his legal career, he handled various immigration concerns such as removal proceedings, assisting clients in obtaining a green card or a nonimmigrant visa, and mounting defenses in front of an immigration court.
Whatever your concern, Andres Mejer is here to offer you quality and competent legal service. Call us right away to schedule a free consultation about your situation.
What is a U Visa?
The government grants this visa to non-U.S. citizens who have been victims of a qualifying crime that has substantially harmed their mental or physical state. The US enacted this nonimmigrant status to help law enforcement agencies execute their mandate, letting non-U.S. victims stay in the country and protect them. With this, the foreign victims could give helpful information and cooperate in law enforcers’ proceedings to bring justice.
What are the requirements of the U Visa?
The U nonimmigrant visa is awarded for up to four years. After three years, the U visa holder may apply for lawful permanent residency.
To be eligible for a U visa, you must meet the following criteria:
- You are the victim of certain types of criminal activity (the qualifying crimes are listed below);
- You have suffered a substantial physical or mental injury because of the criminal activity;
- You have information about the crime;
- You were helpful, are helpful, or will be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime;
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. law; and
- You are admissible to the U.S. (if you are not admissible to the U.S., you may apply for a waiver of your inadmissibility).
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may approve up to 10,000 U visa petitions yearly.
Not every criminal activity qualifies for U visa eligibility. The following are crimes that qualify under the U visa rules:
- Abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and any other crimes where the elements are similar to those on this list.
The federal immigration law defines this list. In most circumstances, the actual crime is subject to a state law enforcement agency like the police or prosecutor’s office under state law.
A competent New Jersey immigration attorney at Andres Mejer Law can evaluate the state crime from the perspective of federal law to see if the elements of the State crime are the same or similar to the federal requirement.
Again, you must help law enforcement investigate and prosecute one of the above crimes to qualify for a U visa. Many different activities may qualify as assisting law enforcement. Calling the police, answering police questions, being interviewed by the prosecutor, testifying in court, etc., are all ways in which you may have assisted law enforcement.
Applying for a U Visa
The application process for this visa can be time-consuming. The applicant must gather considerable supporting documentation to increase their odds of being approved for U nonimmigrant status.
The following is general information regarding the documentation necessary to prove eligibility for U nonimmigrant status. Again, immigration law is extraordinarily complicated. You should discuss your case with a qualified New Jersey immigration lawyer before pursuing any immigration benefits.
In addition to the I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, you must submit a supplemental certification from an authorized law enforcement official certifying that you were/are/will be helpful in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity.
That can frequently be the most challenging part of the case. You must convince a law enforcement agency like the police, prosecutor, or judge to sign the form for you to apply to immigration. Hence, they need to be informed of your matter to have your certification signed.
If you are not admissible to the United States, you must file a waiver application. Your U nonimmigrant status cannot be approved until your waiver is approved. You probably need a waiver if you are in the country without authorization, have been deported and returned to the U.S. illegally, have committed a crime, suffer from certain diseases, etc.
The most essential component of your petition for U status is your personal statement. Tell your story. Your personal statement is the only opportunity to explain everything that happened to you, what injury you suffered, any treatments you received, how you assisted law enforcement, etc. You should also use this statement to explain why they should grant you a waiver for your inadmissibility.
Evidence of the Crime
Even though you must submit a certification from law enforcement with your petition, you also want to provide as much information as possible about the crime. Trial transcripts, police reports, court documents, news articles, affidavits, orders of protection, etc., are all valuable evidence of the crime.
Evidence of Abuse
You must provide credible evidence that proves you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to the crime. That should include medical records; affidavits from doctors, psychologists, counselors, etc.; photographs of injuries; an affidavit from friends and family about the injury, etc. You should obtain a certified translation if any documentation is not in English.
Submitting the form and Attending the interview
After completing the forms and supporting documents, remember to make copies before submitting them to USCIS. Check that everything is complete before you send the packet to USCIS.
The interview happens after your submission. There are cases where you may not be required to attend an in-person interview if you apply from within the US.
If they require you, attend the interview at your local USCIS office. That may be held at the US consulate in your home country if you applied from outside the states.
How do I apply for a Permanent Residency?
Approval of U nonimmigrant status will allow you to live and work in the United States for up to four years. During this time, you should be sure to continue to cooperate with law enforcement regarding criminal activity. After three years of U nonimmigrant status, you may apply for lawful permanent residency.
Take note of the following when applying for a green card:
- You should remain to be eligible for the U status at the time of application;
- You continue to cooperate (have not refused unreasonably) with the authorities and have not lived outside the country for an extended period;
- You are continuously present in the US for the past three years;
- Your physical presence in the country is justified (i.e., based on humanitarian grounds, public interest, etc.)
Get the Best Legal Aid from our U Visa Immigration Attorney Now!
In every immigration case, there will always be roadblocks that you will have to face. More so, there are no assurances that the decision will be in your favor. However, this does not rule out the possibility of overcoming these obstacles. You will have a better chance of success if you seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer.
We at Andres Mejer Law have dedicated ourselves to upholding the highest standard of our legal services to effectively and efficiently meet our clients’ needs. With this goal in mind, we do not only handle immigration matters but also handle criminal defense (e.g., assault charges, DUI) and family law cases (e.g., divorce, alimony).
Don’t delay any further. Get the best legal assistance today to start building your case.