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What’s a U Visa?
The U Visa category (Form I-918) exists to provide victims of specific crimes temporary legal resident status as well as work eligibility in the U.S. Up to 10,000 U visas may be issued each year, and they are usually valid for up to 4 years. The victim of the crime must be willing to provide information to law enforcement authorities regarding the crime they were a victim of.
A person who has been issued a U visa or U-3 Visa may also include family members in their application, including spouses, children, siblings (unmarried and under 18 years old), parents, stepparents, and adoptive parents. The U Visa category is very similar to the T visa category for victims of human trafficking.
Who is Eligible for a U-Visa?
Only certain non-immigrant aliens are eligible for a U-Visa. In general, an applicant for a U visa must:
- Be the victim of a crime specifically listed in portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act
- Have suffered physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime
- Be able to assist local law enforcement in the prosecution of the crime (usually by providing them information about the crime)
In addition, the crime needs to have occurred within the U.S. or in U.S. territory, and must be a violation of U.S. laws. The Form I-918 includes a list of crimes that can be claimed in a U visa application. These can include: domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, torture, hostage situations, false imprisonment, sexual assault or abuse, prostitution, obstruction of justice, and other similar crimes.
Lastly, some parts of the U Visa Form I-918 need to be certified by the appropriate authorities. These may include state or Federal law enforcement officials, a prosecutor, or a judge in charge of the investigation (in which the applicant is a victim).
Can an Alien Avoid Removal or Deportation by Filing for a U-Visa?
Normally, a non-citizen who is facing criminal charges may be subject to removal or deportation under immigration laws. However, filing for a U-visa may be a means for obtaining relief from removal. If the immigrant is eligible for a U visa, it can provide them protection against the removal process.
Of course, an immigration judge will need to conduct a thorough analysis of the entire situation. They are likely going to balance the victim’s need for protection under a U visa against any crimes they may be facing charges for. It is also helpful if the U visa applicant has a valid criminal defense for the charges, such as self-defense in relation to the domestic violence of which they were a victim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a U-Visa Application?
If you are a non-citizen immigrant and have been the victim in serious crime, you may be eligible for a U Visa. You may wish to contact a qualified immigration lawyer in your area for advice on how to proceed. Your attorney can help you in preparing the paperwork, and can represent you during formal immigration court hearings. Also, your lawyer will be knowledgeable regarding the interaction between immigration and criminal laws.
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Last Modified: 05-01-2012 11:47 AM PDT
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