U visa - Victim of Crime
Although the U visa was created by law in October 2000, the implementing regulations establishing the requirements and details of the U Visa were not issued until Fall 2007. The U visa is a nonimmigrant classification that was created to "facilitate the reporting of crimes to law enforcement officials by trafficked, exploited, victimized, and abused [noncitizens] who are not in lawful immigration status in the United States." If an alien victim of a crime cooperates with the police and/or prosecution, U visa status may be available.
The applicant must be a victim of a crime listed in the statute. The list of qualifying crimes includes rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, prostitution, held hostage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felony assault, perjury and witness tampering among others. Conspiracy, solicitation or attempts to commit one of the listed crimes is sufficient for U visa qualification. Additional requirements include that the alien applicant have suffered substantial abuse as a result of being a victim. The victim has information about the crime and is begin helpful, has been helpful or is likely to be helpful to the investigation or prosecution. An authorized government authority must certify that the applicant was, is or will be helpful to the investigation or prosecution.
In some cases, the crime might not squarely fit one of the listed qualifying crimes; however, arguments can be made to show that the crime is covered by the statutory list. Similarly, the term "victim" is not cut and dry either. The definition of victim is broader than one might realize. The regulations define "victim" as the person "who is directly and proximately harmed by . . . criminal activity." In practice, family members of a victim may be eligible for a U visa as well. For example, if an individual is murdered, his/her surviving family members may qualify as victims and may be eligible for U visa status.
The process of obtaining certification from an authorized governmental agency is one of the most important and difficult aspects of the U visa process. An authorized governmental agency, such as the police department, the district attorney or the judge, must complete and sign the Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification.
The U visa can be an excellent option for victims of domestic violence. VAWA green cards based on domestic abuse are preferable if the victim's spouse is an US citizen of lawful permanent resident; however, if the abusive spouse is an undocumented alien, the victim is not eligible under VAWA. In this case, the victim is still eligible for a U visa if s/he reports the domestic abuse and cooperates with the authorities.
Although the U visa is labeled a nonimmigrant visa, it is a path to a green card. After three years in U visa status, the alien may apply for lawful permanent residence. Permanent resident status may be granted based on humanitarian grounds or to ensure family unity or when it is in the public interest.
Spouses and children of U visa petitioners are eligible for U status as well. Parents of U petitioners are eligible for U visas if the U petitioner is under 21 years of age. Unmarried brothers and sisters of U petitioners may obtain U status if the U petitioner is under 21 years old, and the brother or sister is under 18 years of age. A Form I-918, supplement A must be filed for each and every qualifying family member.
If you have been a victim of a crime and believe you might be eligible for U visa status, contact The Nuñez Firm today. Managing attorney Jay Nuñez will discuss your case with you and determine whether the U visa is a possibility for you.