Immigration policy is detailed. Here are the keys to understanding the U Visa.
The United States is well-known for its hospitality and assimilation of immigrants.
However, non-U.S. citizens can also be prime targets for criminals wishing to do others harm. This is especially true for those without legal status.
As the political dialogue about immigration heats up, and (mostly false) rumors swirl about courtroom ICE stings and roadblocks, many immigrants who are victims of violent crime instead prefer to stay silent than go to the police.
The U Visa is designed to combat this very problem by protecting those who wish to help law enforcement fight crime.
1. The victim must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a victim of criminal activity in the United States.*
2. The victim must have information he/she is willing to share about the crime that is helpful or likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime,
3. The victim must be admissible to the United States (those undocumented can apply for a waiver of this requirement).
If the victim has suffered a serious crime (let’s say, for example, a robbery at gunpoint), the first step is to talk to the police as soon as possible. This not only helps the police gather as much evidence as possible to prosecute the criminal, but it also helps the victim’s credibility as somebody who legitimately qualifies for the U visa.
The second step should be to speak with an attorney as soon as possible, as there will be some paperwork involved.
The attorney can help the victim get an affidavit from the officer in charge of investigating the crime, prepare the forms to be sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), help the victim write his/her personal statement.
If you are (or someone you know is) a non-U.S. citizen and the victim of a serious crime, these steps are a must to make sure that you can qualify for this benefit.
A U visa is generally valid for four years, and after three years, you could become eligible for permanent residency (i.e. green card), and eventually, citizenship.
* Not all crimes can qualify a victim for a U visa. To see a list of the crimes that do qualify, as well as more information about the U visa, you can click here.
** The police “affidavit” (Form I-918, Supp. B) must be filled out and signed by a department supervisor, not just any officer. Most (if not all) law enforcement agencies have a specific person assigned to filling out this form.
Note: U visas are limited. Only 10,000 are made available each year. The wait time to receive the U visa varies, but as of this posting can be as long as 2-3 years. However, those placed on the waiting list can receive a work authorization card and be deferred from deportation.