Congress created "U" nonimmigrant visa status for victims of crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse because of the crime, and who not only have information regarding the criminal activity, but who also are willing to assist government officials in the investigation of the criminal activity.
A qualifying criminal activity is one involving one or more of a long list of activities that violate federal, state, or local criminal law, including: murder, rape, torture, sexual exploitation, extortion, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, false imprisonment, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and trafficking.
The intent of the legislation is to protect immigrants from serious crimes, as well as strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes.
There are four requirements for U-visa eligibility:
- The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
- He has information concerning the criminal activity;
- He or she has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
- The criminal activity must have violated the laws of the U.S or occurred in the U.S.
The procedure for requesting U nonimmigrant status is as follows:
Alien victims of crime must file Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. The application includes a U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, which must be completed by a federal, state, or local law enforcement official, who must indicate that the alien has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation. The alien must prove his or her eligibility for U visa status, as well as his or her admissibility to the U.S.
The USCIS is authorized to grant up to 10,000 U-visas each year, authorizing the holder to remain in the U.S. for up to four years. Some individuals who have held U nonimmigrant status will eventually able to apply for permanent residency, provided they have been present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of admission as a U nonimmigrant, and the USCIS must determine that the individual's presence in the U.S. is justified on humanitarian grounds.
Should you have questions regarding U visa eligibility, the attorneys at Harrison Alo, Attorneys at Law are available to discuss the U classification.