How to Get a U-Visa for Victims of Crimes and Criminal Activity
There is a special nonimmigrant Visa or status established for victims of qualifying criminal activity committed in the United States and this article will focus on how to get a U-visa.. This includes crimes/activity committed in Indian Country, military installations, and the territories and possessions of the United States.
But this is not enough. The victim must also have information about the criminal activity and the victim must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
Benefits of a U Visa?
What are the benefits of a U Visa and U Visa status? Well, there are many. The first thing is that the applicant need not be physically present in the United States in order to apply. And if granted the U Visa, it is typically granted for a period of four years, in which case the applicant will also be eligible to work in the United States. They will receive an employment authorization document.
After three years in the status, they may be eligible to apply for a Green Card, and if they have qualified family members, these members may also obtain derivative U Visa status.
How to Get a U-Visa During Immigration Court Removal Proceedings
In addition to these benefits, I would like to briefly discuss two other benefits that are often overlooked. One is for local permanent residents. That is those who already have a Green Card, but find themselves in immigration court in removal proceedings to deport them from the United States. In this case, if they are victims of a crime and meet the other qualifying requirements, they may also apply for a U Visa.
In addition, non Green Card holders, those who are in the United States illegally and find themselves as respondents in immigration court in removal proceedings, they may also apply for a U Visa, again, if they meet the qualifying requirements.
The point is, if you feel that you may be eligible for a U Visa and you are in immigration court, it’s very, very important that you notify your immigration attorney right away.
Qualifying Criminal Activity
What constitutes qualifying criminal activity? Well, the first thing you need to know is that it can take place at the federal, state, or even the local level. Now, Congress has enumerated a number of criminal activities that qualify. I’ll go through them in turn.
Rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, being held hostage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, and any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these crimes or criminal activities.
What constitutes a qualifying victim? The victim must have suffered substantial physical abuse, or the victim must have suffered substantial mental abuse. And as you can appreciate, many times these go hand in hand. There is also what’s known as the nexus requirement, and simply this is that the victim’s suffering must be a result of the underlying, qualifying criminal activity.
And finally, there is the certification requirement. A federal, state, or local official investigating or prosecuting the qualifying criminal activity must certify that the victim is being, or will likely be, or has been helpful to the official’s investigation or prosecution.
Perhaps the most common question we get about U Visas is about filing and the documentation requirements for applicants. As you can appreciate, as with most things in immigration, it’s all forms driven. There is a form for filing for U Visa relief, and it is called form I 918. However, be aware that there is a supplement to this form. It’s called form I 918 supplement B.
This supplement should be completed by the prosecuting or investigating agency, and it has to be signed by the authorized agency official. When filing the supplement, it has to be filed concurrently with form I 918. So you file them together.
The applicant must also prepare and file with form I 918 a detailed personal statement. When I say detailed, I mean that it absolutely should include all of the details and facts surrounding the event, how its affected you, and how you’ve assisted in the prosecution or in the investigation of this criminal activity, and how it affects you today. All of the details and facts that would tend to qualify one for U Visa relief should be contained in the personal statement.
How to Get a U-Visa and the Recommended Supplemental Documentation
In addition to the required documents and forms, there are some recommended supplemental documents that I believe you should submit with your application, as well. The first thing that comes to mind are police reports. Typically in these events when there are criminal activities, police reports are filed. If this is the case, you’ll want to be sure to obtain copies and submit them with your application.
Transcripts and Court Records: If the case is being prosecuted or was prosecuted, you’ll want to obtain records that substantiate this.
Affidavits of Witnesses: These can be eyewitnesses of the event or even friends or family who may have seen you immediately or shortly after the event who can testify as to, perhaps, injuries that you had or how it’s affected you. Don’t overlook this immportant issue.
Along that same line, you may want to try to get affidavits from police and prosecutors who you worked with. This would be in addition to the supplement B, and it can be helpful at times if you’re able to obtain it.
News Articles: If there were news articles about the event and you and what happened, you’ll probably want to have news clippings. Now, if you don’t actually have the news clippings themselves, be aware that most newspapers nowadays have an online source where you can pull up old articles and print them out.
Photographs: If you do happen to have photographs of yourself immediately after the event, perhaps depicting your injuries, this can be helpful. However, be sure to submit them with an affidavit of authenticity.
Medical Reports: Typically in these events, someone goes for medical treatment immediately thereafter, or sometimes ongoing. If this is the case, you’ll want to get doctor, hospital, medical reports and submit those with your application as well.
Psychological Reports: Many times victims are psychologically traumatized and they don’t even fully appreciate this. Sometimes it affects their lives for months, and many times, years later. If you feel this may be your situation, it may be advisable to go to a psychiatrist or psychologist or other mental health professional to obtain an evaluation and a report to substantiate the mental injuries that you may have sustained.
This list here is by no means exhaustive, so if you have other evidence that you feel would support your claim and more, by all means include those as well. And the agency has been liberal in accepting such evidence on an ongoing basis. You’ll want to submit as much as possible with your initial application, but feel free to supplement as you obtain more evidence.
Tom and Peter
The Immigration Guys
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