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Are You Eligible for a U-Visa as a Victim of a Crime?

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An Overview of the U-Visa

U-VisaThe ultimate goal of the U VISA is to provide for the protection of the victims of serious crimes and assist in the prosecution of the perpetrators by encouraging voluntary cooperation with law enforcement to resolve investigations. The following questions and answers discuss the eligibility requirements and procedural requirements for applying and obtaining a U visa.

Why a U Visa?

Many victims of certain crimes fail to disclose his or her injury to law enforcement for fear of revealing his or her unlawful status in the US. The U visa is a great tool for law enforcement and affords an opportunity for victimized undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status in the United States.

Who will qualify for a U Visa?

  • The U visa is available to immigrants who are victims of criminal activities.
  • In some cases, the victim’s family members can also stay in the US, regardless of their current immigration status, as long as the applicant is a victim of a crime.
    • To qualify for the derivative U visa, the petitioner must submit evidence to prove that there is a “qualifying family member” relationship between the petitioner and the family member.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The individual:

  • suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity
  • possesses information about the criminal activity
  • has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime
  • the criminal activity must have violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States.

How long does the U Visa last?

  • Once granted, the U visa lasts for four years.
    • If a victim is granted a U visa, he or she can adjust his or her status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) after three years from the date of receipt of the U visa.

What is the definition of a victim?

A victim is one who has suffered a direct and proximate harm as a result of a qualifying criminal activity. Most likely, the person who has suffered from one of the statutorily listed crimes will be considered a victim if the assertion can be supported by evidence such as police reports.

What qualifies as an eligible criminal activity?

The eligible criminal activity is based on whether the crime is explicitly listed under the statute, 8 C.F.R. § 214.14, and whether a charging law enforcement agency is willing to certify the crime as a violation of either the state or the federal law.

Is it necessary for the victim’s assistance to result in prosecution or arrest?

No. The victim must only possess reliable information relating to the criminal activity and provide proof that he or she possesses specific facts about the qualifying crime. This requires that the victim assist in either or both of the criminal investigation and prosecution.

Where does the location of the occurred criminal activity have to take place?

The qualifying criminal activity must have occurred in the United States or its territories or possessions. However, an application will not be denied solely based on the lack of territorial determination of the criminal activity.

What is the overview of the application process?

A completed application is divided into two parts: the forms and the necessary supporting evidence. The application must include the forms, the evidence of the crime, and all the other required documents.

Are there filing fees for a U Visa?

There is no filing fee for the application regardless of the petitioner’s income, but filing fees for supplementary forms are required.

What if a U Visa petitioner is facing removal proceedings or has received a final order of removal while waiting for the approval of the U visa petition?

If a U visa petitioner is in pending removal proceedings, he or she could request that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Counsel apply his or her discretion by filing a joint motion to terminate proceedings with the Immigration Judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals, while the petition for U Visa is pending with USCIS.

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Be sure to read the articles in our immigration law newsletter on religious problems and persecution in countries such as Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Morocco, Malta and India on our website at www.boilapc.com, or you can see the entire May 2010 immigration newsletter by clicking here.

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