The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to victims of certain crimes who have assisted in the investigation or prosecution of the perpetrator of the crime to which the immigrant was the victim. To qualify for a U visa, the immigrant must meet the following criteria:
- The immigrant victim has suffered substantial mental or physical abuse;
- The immigrant victim has information about the criminal activity;
- The immigrant victim has been helpful to law enforcement or government officials in investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity;
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated United States laws; and
- The immigrant victim is admissible to the United States (if the victim is inadmissible, they may be eligible to apply for a waiver of this requirement).
U visas may be available to victims of the following crimes (this includes an attempt to commit one of these crimes or a conspiracy or solicitation to commit one of these crimes):
- Abusive sexual contact;
- Domestic violence;
- False imprisonment;
- Female genital mutilation;
- Felonious assault;
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting;
- Involuntary servitude;
- Obstruction of justice;
- Sexual assault;
- Sexual exploitation;
- Slave trade;
- Witness tampering;
- Unlawful criminal restraint;
- Other related crimes (where the elements of the crime are substantially similar to the elements of a crime listed above).
It is important to note that the U visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning it does not confer the right to live in the United States indefinitely; it is not a green card or citizenship. Instead, the U visa is valid for only four years. At the expiration of that four-year period, it may be possible for the U visa holder to extend the U visa in limited circumstances, including if law enforcement still requires the U visa holder’s assistance, if there are delays in consular processing, or if there are other exceptional circumstances.
Even though the U visa is a nonimmigrant visa, U visa holders may also be eligible to apply for their green cards, if they meet the following criteria:
- They have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years while holding the U visa status;
- They have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since receiving their U visa;
- They are not inadmissible under INA § 212(a)(3)(E) (relating to Nazi persecutors);
- Their presence in the United States is justifiable on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity, or their presence is in the public interest; and
- They merit a favorable exercise of discretion (factors such as family ties in the United States, hardship, and the length of a U visa holder’s stay in the United States may merit a favorable exercise of discretion).
Certain relatives of a U visa holder, including spouses, children, parents, or siblings, may also be eligible to receive their green cards based on the U visa holder’s application.
The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices, LLC can help you assess your eligibility for the U visa and can assist you in applying for the U visa and/or Green card. Please contact our office at 717-731-8114 to schedule a consultation.