Welcome To America: An Immigrant’s Story: Immigrant Shooting survivor: U-Visa Process, Duration and Cost
Mark: Let’s jump right in and start with the process. What is the general process or steps that most undocumented immigrants will go through to get a U-Visa?
Andres: Okay, so last week, we talked about these three different steps for us. First, we investigate, can we prove the five core elements, then we ask for law enforcement certification, then we prepare the application itself, because we did a lot of it in the first point, and then file it. And we do that because U visa is expensive. I don’t want to charge you seven to $10,000 and then tell you can’t help you. So instead, we do it one step at a time making sure we’re only charging for what we the work we know we can do. We know we can investigate, we know we can prove that we know that we can evaluate, can we prove that you can file, then can we get law enforcement to agree then can we file step two is the hardest? Once we have step two, you will be approved unless you do something to screw it up. And what I mean is criminal conduct an order of removal is fixable. minor crimes is fixable. Entering the United States without permission is fixable with a U Visa, but multiple crimes might not be fatal. So each one of those is a negative factor. Immigration is going to look at the totality of the circumstances. And we’re never going to file something that’s going to put you at risk without your express permission. We’re not just going to go and do it. We’re going to ask you and you’re going to how you’re going to decide, yes, I do want to do that or no, I don’t. But you’re going to make an informed decision.
Mark: OK, so that tells us how to go about getting a U-Visa, but what if they have a family?
Andres: Okay, great question. So let me rephrase that. Who can who gets the benefit? Right? So if I’m a victim of violent crime, I’m over 21. I’m an adult. And for immigration purposes, it’s 21. That’s the threshold for this issue, not for everything, sometimes 18. Sometimes it’s 16. But for purposes of who are my children who are my dependents, it’s my kids under 21. My spouse, and in some cases, my parents, if I’m an adult, I can’t include my parents. But I can include my spouse, and I can include my kids, I can also include my spouse’s kids. Right. Now, if my family is not in the United States, they can get the status also, I can be in the United States, I can leave the US and still fall for U visa in order to get back. So that is doable. Now, what happens if I’m a minor, let’s say I was born in the United States, and as a victim of violent crime, I’m under 21. So immigration recognizes that without my parents assistance, I likely wouldn’t speak to the police are reported to the police. So if I’m a minor under 21, my parents can now get the benefit. And my siblings who are under 18 can get it. Now I’m a US citizen, I don’t need this. But a recognition that without my parents assistance, it likely wouldn’t have happened. So they get as in as an indirect victim, and so do my siblings. Again, as long as they’re under 18. Now, if I’m born, the United States and some of my siblings, we already won the lottery. We’re already US citizens. So we don’t need this, but my parents might not be and that’s often how it happens. Now, I sometimes get the question, well, what happens if I marry after the after this happened? Can I include my spouse? And the answer is yes. As long as your case is not approved, so 2016 I’m a victim of a crime 2017 I file for a U Visa 2018. I married undocumented immigrant, I can file to include my spouse, before my application is approved. It used to be I have to be married at the time of application, or they’re out of luck until they I file for a green card in which case I could add them because remember, U visa is visa first. Then after a period of time green card and after a period of time citizenship. So if I married before U visa is approved, I can include them, either initially or after filing. If I marry and now I’m filing for my green card I can include I’m in when I’m getting my green card or even after I get my green card, it just becomes harder. That’s all.
Mark: Wow. I mean, I never really would have thought that it was it would be that open to the people around you, it sounds like this, this legal pathway not only affects you, but it oftentimes more than likely will affect everybody around you.
Andres: That’s what I love about the U Visa and VAWA, which is similar. We spoke about that last month, because with one application, you can help the entire family. And there’s a built in waiver. So it U visa and VAWA. Both will fix things that otherwise would make you ineligible, like an order of removal, like minor crimes, like entering United States without permission. So not only does it help everybody, but it also fixes any mistakes you might have been. It’s a big deal. Yeah.
Mark: And if I think about it, it’s like, okay, so let’s say, and I’m making this up on average, each person that gets a UV, so there’s three people that will be affected positively by this, well, then there must be a lot of undocumented immigrants that could use the UBC to get legal. I mean, there must be 1000s of these granted every year, right?
Andres: There are 10,000 granted every year. That’s the number that the legislature enacted when they created this. Now, Biden administration has talked about increasing it to 30,000. But that requires congressional approval. And given our politics, we can agree that the sky is blue. I mean, maybe they can agree my suit is blue, but I’m not even sure about that. So it hasn’t happened because Congress needs to act. It’s not just the president, it has to be by law. So only 10,000 are issued. And we’ve been getting over 20,000 filed every year. Some of it is thanks to us. So I’m happy that every year we’re filing more of those, because you’re right. A lot of people don’t know that. They’re a victim of a violent crime. It could have been five years ago could have been 15 years ago. The older it is, the harder it is to prove what happened. But there’s no statute of limitations. I can file it at any time. Okay,
Mark: all right. So it’s got the it’s got an acceptance rate that’s similar to college.
Andres: Better. Yeah.
Mark:That’s right. And that’s pretty good.
Andres: Our first denial ever for a U Visa this year. And it will, because the government sent a request for evidence to the wrong damn address. They didn’t they send it to our old office, and they didn’t send it to the client at all. client didn’t move. So they screwed up. And we only knew because we were asking, we followed up saying, hey, why don’t we get employment position wanted to get employment position? They should be getting it already. And eventually, after the fifth time, we’ve asked ourselves your case denied. We mean, your case is denied. We didn’t. Oh, you didn’t get it? No, we didn’t get it. Well, you talking about? So now we’re fixing it. But again, it’s the government’s mistake. It’s the only denial we’ve ever had. And it was an approvable case filed in 2017. Five years ago.
Mark: Wow. Yeah. Sometimes the government can be a slow moving, clumsy giant, right? And that when we hit we deal with those situations that would ever want to feel the wrath of that giant. That’s why I call them a giant. But at the same time, if you’re watching them closely, you’re making sure they’re following through on what they need to, and you’re able to call them out when bureaucratic Mistakes happen, you know, like, the bureaucracy of a big government. lot, a lot of people in there, right? So basically, what you do is just make sure what’s supposed to happen is supposed to happen. And so really, people are getting a peace of mind.
Andres: Yeah. So I know, we haven’t talked about price. Probably this is your next question. I think I’m reading your mind, Mark. What is not going to be asking? What do Inquiring minds want to know?
Mark: Well, yeah, you know, and I do I do want to know more about the price. But I did have one question back to what you said earlier, because it was amazing, talking about all all these potential pathways into a U Visa for people. And there’s a lot of caveats that work in people’s favor. But what are some things that might exclude an undocumented person from assuming?
Andres: Thank you. I like that question. Before we accept any client as a client, there are three fundamental questions that we need to ask and we need to answer without doing client harm. Because if they’re not going to be if we can’t fix it, if we can’t get them approved, all we’ve done is take their time, given them false hopes, and then potentially expose them to, to removal. We don’t want to do that. So three fundamental questions. I call it do you qualify? It’s the 953 method. I call it that because I made it up. No one else has shared it to me know what I’m self taught. No one else has taught this to me. This is what, after meeting with clients 1000s of clients and doing over 100 Church seminars and nonprofits when someone always asked me, Hey, do I qualify? This is what I distill it to these core three things. One, do you qualify for one of nine paths? U Visa is one VAWA is another especially we’re going juvenile asylum, Cancellation of Removal, family based application, citizenship, parole in place, again, employment based application. All of those are avenues to get a green card. Today, we’re talking about a U Visa. So do you have a path? Gabrielle anyone have a path for their green card, a great offer for their U Visa? And then green card? Great, they have one of the nine? Second question, do you have one of five things that could disqualify you? And this goes directly to your question? Yes, I qualify. But am I gonna get it? Well, it depends on your past. Do you have multiple entries United States without permission? Do you have an order removal? Or are you in removal? Do you have pending or prior crimes? Have you committed fraud on a government institution like filing prior immigration application saying you’re married when you’re not? Or trying to qualify for something you don’t qualify and lying about it? And do you have prior denied applications? So the denial might have to overcome? Now, for one and Gabrielle, we know most likely they’re in removal. We know they came without permission? Those are two things that disqualify them. So three is, is there one of three ways to fix it. And that is post conviction relief move to undo Cryer group prior crimes, motion to reopen, go back to immigration court to undo an order of removal or filing a waiver. U Visa has a waiver built in. And because we’re talking about non violent offenses, no order of removal, or in removal and entered without permission, you visa We’ll fix that we’ll fix both of them. We’ll fix both of them, and some criminal conduct because of how horrific what they went through. So immigration is going to look at alright, what did they go through? What did Who are they? How did they help? And then what’s their past and decide? Do they deserve it? Or don’t? There’s almost no negatives with what Juan and Gabriella went through? I mean, obviously going through it is a negative, what I mean is in their past, there’s nothing truly problematic for that get into without permission. Oh, what So what sort of 11 million? Well, maybe not 11 million, but multiple millions, right? Yes. They’re in removal. Okay, they’re in removal. But that doesn’t disqualify them. You file for the U Visa, you can then remove terminate proceedings against you. Well, what happens if you are already ordered deported? Because you didn’t show up to court? Or you went you had your trial, and you lost? And you didn’t appeal it? So you have an order rule U Visa? We’ll fix that too. So 953, do they have a path? Is there something in their past that disqualifies them, and we check THIS IS THE GOOD WORLD component by the way. So prior crimes we check, prior convictions, prior denied applications, fraud, fraud, all of that we check if there’s something can we fix it, if they have a path and they have no negatives, we can accept them as a client, if they have a path, and they have a negative but there’s no solution. We typically don’t accept them as a client, because we can’t help them. So all they’re doing is giving money to their attorney and having their attorney do useless work. If they want to do that. I’d rather accept the money not do the work. If they want to give me a tip. Fantastic. But I don’t want to give false hopes. And I don’t want to anyone look at this. This process takes five years, it’d be so easy that someone no don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it. We’ll fix it pay here sign, that’s easy. And then I can blame it on the government say their laws changed and it’s not my fault. Again, easy. We don’t work that way. We’ll tell them in advance. You don’t qualify for this reason. You can go and speak to other attorneys. Just understand. If you don’t ask them how they deal with this. You’re wasting your mind. This whatever this thing that disqualifies them,
Mark/Jose: I can totally understand that right. You know, if you know something’s going to take six months, you tell them it’s going to take a year, you know, you set expectations properly. So that way your clients are always pleasantly surprised, right. I think that really is the sign of of experience and a seasoned attorney is to be able to do that because you’re right. A lot of them just don’t do that. So now we understand how to qualify for a U VISA and the process to get one back to that big burning question. I want to know, how much does it cost?
Andres: A lot! more information, at the end of day, it’s not a lot. So I will give you ranges because 953, right, two clients victim of the same crime at the same time, one might be more expensive than the other because there are things in his or her past that might need to be fixed. And they might have derivatives. So again, we do it piecemeal. First is background search is the UVs investigation. So that’s typically anywhere from 2500 to 3500, depending on the circumstance to investigate the specific incident, then it’s anywhere from 1500 to 2500. To order all of the documents for the individual, usually I do this for each adult. So there’s about nine different agencies that we order stuff from motor vehicle commission, FBI, and then seven, immigration agencies sometimes more, sometimes less, USCIS. That’s it as it says Immigration Services Department, Homeland Security, EOIR, which is the court Customs and Border Patrol, which is on the border, ice, Customs Enforcement, with those people trying to deport you, Department of State for any visas or interviews that you had coming into United States and OBM. They’re the clearinghouse for fingerprints, biometrics for all the agencies. So if you were ever caught at the border, or anywhere and fingerprinted by immigration, even if you came a fake, you know gave the wrong name, it will come up. So 15 to 2500, for background search, you know, now if it’s two adults, maybe it’s 3000, for everything for that part and 2500 for the investigation. But again, it depends on the circumstances, because some are much more complicated than others. The older the incident, the more time it takes from us to get it. Because if you tell me, Hey, I was a victim of a crime in 2006, I think it was in this area. That’s not a lot of information. You know, what, where, when, how. So the more complicated, the more expensive it’s going to be, because it just takes more of me or my team’s time to get the information. So you visa investigation 25 to 3500 plus background search background search 15 120 500. For adult, it is not uncommon for this to be about 5500. For two parents, for twins, the husband and wife, now are boyfriend and girlfriend that agreed to get married, right? Because if they’re not married, forget it. Now, law enforcement certification 2500 to 3500. Again, depending on the complexity on how many agencies we communicate with, once we get that, then the third stage is filing the application, again, 2500 to 3500 for the victim, and usually 1000 to 2000 for derivatives. So it depends on whether it’s an adult or a child. It’s just more paperwork, but child has less information, I don’t need to do a background search on a child because any applications for immigration would be included with parents, any crimes I wouldn’t have access to anyway, because they’re minors. So fingerprinting wouldn’t help me. So it’s cheaper for children. And usually we don’t do background searches on children. But hey, a 17 year old is still a child, a seven year old, a child also but didn’t have enough time to screw up 70 year olds had a little more time to screw up. So first investigation, so you know, anywhere from 4000 to 5500, generally, depending on what 4000 To 6500 depending on is it husband and wife or just husband or wife, then 2500 To 3500 to get the law enforcement certification, then it’s the application itself. So as you can see, this is anywhere from 10 to 15,000. That’s legal fees, all in, which is why I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell somebody Hey, pay 10,000 Pay 15,000 and then tell them I can’t help you. I can’t tell you how many clients have told me that’s what’s happened to them. We don’t do it that way. We do it step by step. Because I don’t want to charge you for something I can’t do.
Mark: That’s key. That’s key. And that’s definitely admirable. That’s a big, big deal. You know, and really, as you say that price is just I’m really, a lot of things are spinning in my head because I’m thinking about and I’m like, wow, you know, the average new car cost is $50,000. The average car payment monthly is over $500. If somebody were to pay $150 a month for car insurance over the course of their driving career, they’ll spend over $108,000 on insurance, you’re telling me that pretend $15,000 They can get citizenship to the United States protect their rights and never have to look over the shoulder again for the rest of their life.
Andres: Yes and no, because first it’s a U Visa. Then it’s a green card. Then it’s citizenship. But they don’t get a green card and they don’t get citizenship unless they get the visa part first. That’s where U Visa comes in. So yes, it is a path for them to dramatically change their life. Wow. But it takes a long time. And it’s not cheap. Again, it’s why we do it one step at a time.
Mark: Okay, all right. And so, of course, I like to touch on this just kind of put things in perspective. But, you know, Canada undocumented immigrant get a U Visa without an immigration attorney, why would they need an immigration attorney? And if they were a victim of a crime, would the government help them?
Andres: Can immigrant do this alone without an attorney? Yes, they can. They absolutely can. The problem is they don’t know what they don’t know. And this is the first application update of this type that they’ve done. So the example we gave last week is when someone did it with a an attorney who doesn’t specialize in immigration and doesn’t specialize in new visas. So they didn’t know because it was the first of this kind that they did. And you see all the mistakes in the application. So immigration is going to ask for more information. Every time they ask for more information is called a Request for Evidence or a notice of intent to deny their case gets delayed six plus months. Now in that client, they were in California victim of violent crime, police signed law enforcement, law enforcement certification, they waited almost five years, and then immigration denied it. Because the certification was done incorrectly. It listed them as a witness, not as a victim. The police report made it clear they were a victim. So the attorney either filled out the form incorrectly, or the officer filled out the form incorrectly and they didn’t check it. And there’s just pitfalls like that. Look, I mean, we do on average, well, we’ve now helped 4350 some odd immigrants. We file 70 to 80 u visas, and VA once a year, for 10 years. So we’ve done hundreds of these, there really isn’t much we haven’t seen. So you avoid questions like do I am I sending it to the right place? Do I have the right documents? Am I sending the right fee? Do I have the right form? Right? Because there’s multiple places to file things. There’s multiple forms. Now what happens if you it takes us six months to get the law enforcement certification? Right. Sometimes police they don’t respond timely. You have to be you have to insist and ask again and again and again. And again. So what happens if the form they give you is now expired? Yeah. Well, you need to change it, if you don’t know that your case is going to be denied. So there’s just so many, I don’t say this about every area, not everyone require is required to have an immigration first of all, the law is quite clear, you don’t need to. But what you get from having an attorney, and particularly when it focuses on this type of work is peace of mind, you’re going to know at least you paid the right amount, you send it to the right place, the use the right forms, that you have the best chance of getting an approval as fast as possible. It just depends on the level of risk you’re willing to tolerate. If you’re going to invest the time to read all the instructions to follow up. Look, we have tons of information just like this video on our YouTube channel. You could take a weekend binge watch me yay. And watch all of those videos. You can still make a mistake. But you know what? You can be better off than some attorneys that we’ve seen do it? Because they don’t they also don’t know what they don’t know.
Mark: That’s really interesting. So
Andres: We talked about how much does it cost? We talked about how long does it take? We talked about what are those requirements? And what are the three steps to investigate to get a U Visa? What are the three steps that you qualify that we use the three questions we ask our clients, before we accept anyone as a client. And we talked about what makes a case more or less expensive, right? Is it just you? Are you inside the United States? Do you have prior acts that need to be fixed? Who are your dependents? Do we need background searches for them? Do they qualify? That is what will determine whether the price goes up or down? Just a function of the work we do the more work we have to do because the more people we’re wanting to help, the more we need to charge.