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What is a "U-Visa"?

What is a U-Visa? Do you qualify?

If you were a victim of a serious crime in the United States, you may qualify for a U-Visa. U-Visas are nonimmigrant visas granted to those who were victims of certain crimes, and want to help in the prosecution of the perpetrator. This is an option for immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, and their families who were victims of ones of these crimes but are too afraid to report it to the police.

The U-Visa gives temporary legal status to victims of serious crimes and their families for up to four years so that they can help with the investigation. Some of these crimes include domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens, and other serious crimes with cause the victim mental and/or physical abuse. A person with a U-Visa is protected and may live and work legally in the United States and help authorities bring the perpetrator of the crime to justice. A victim a serious crime may be eligible for a U-Visa even if they are no longer in the U.S. or have a deportation order. The purpose of this is to prosecute those who engage in these terrible crimes because regardless of one’s legal status, all people have the right to certain protections.

No one should have to accept a serious crime being committed against them for fear of self-incrimination based on legal status. To qualify for a U-Visa, the victim of the crime must have useful information about the crime and must be likely to help with the investigation of the crime. The application for a U-Visa, Form I-918, and a full list of crimes which qualify, can be found on the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services website.

Before filing for a U-Visa, the applicant must acquire a law enforcement certification, Form I-918, Supplement B, signed by a federal, state, or local government official investigating the case to show that they have information about the crime and are willing to help the investigation. There is no fee to file for a U-Visa. Biometric services, such as photographs and fingerprints, may be required, but at no cost to the applicant. Immigrants with U-Visas can apply for permanent residence status (a green card) after living in the United States for at least three years.

The USCIS can only approve 10,000 U-Visas per fiscal year. After that, applications are put on a waiting list and applicants are given deferred action. Applicants on the waiting list may apply for employment authorization and are permitted to travel until the application is accepted.

The purpose of this article is to provide helpful, basic information for residents in the Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York areas. Specific filing instructions can be found on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.

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