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.
The requirements for a U-visa are fairly simple:
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.
When it comes to choosing a student visa for the USA, the decision can be tough.
Whether you wish to come to the United States for high school, university, or graduate school… opportunities to study in the United States are plentiful.
Perhaps the most asked question immigration lawyers receive is, “What is the best visa that will be benefit me the most?”
Here’s a breakdown of your options:
The F visa, by far, is the most common visa that students use when studying in the United States.
The F visa has great perks: you are not required to return to your home country after you finish, your length of stay is determined by your degree program, and you are eligible to work in the United States for at least one year after you graduate. If you wish to qualify for an F visa, however, there is a lot of work that must be done on your part.
Like most visas, you must be willing to disclose everything, in documentation, about your personal life.
The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) will need your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if married), information about your work history, education, and family life.
In addition, you will need to prove to USCIS that you can afford to study in the United States. This means that you need to prove that you have either personal funds, a private scholarship, or other any other non-government means of ensuring that you will not be needing help to fund your education.
The second most common visa for students is the J visa.
J visas are most commonly used for those who receive at least half of the funding from a government (either from your home country or the United States government) or are enrolling in a cultural exchange program.
Personal funds, such as family or companies, cannot qualify you for a J visa. With a J visa, you can qualify for employment off-campus and obtain a work visa for your spouse or children.
One of the biggest differences between F visas and J visas is that J visas may require you to return to your home country for two years.
If you receive a J visa, you will be required to go back home for two years if you are studying a subject that your home country finds necessary (see if you could be subject to this two-year home residency requirement).
M visas are designed to host students enrolling in technical or vocational schools. These kinds of schools include community colleges and/or trade schools.
While M visas are often easier to obtain, the biggest catch with an M visa is that you are never allowed to change your degree of study, and can only work off-campus with permission from USCIS.
Also, your spouse and children, if with you, are also unable to work. You must show that you can provide for them financially throughout your entire stay.
Remember that student visas are non-immigrant visas.
Student visas are not designed for those who wish to use a student visa to live permanently in the United States. If you wish to study in the United States, you need to convince USCIS that you intend to return to your home country after you finish your education.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your plans can’t change (you could qualify for work visa, get married, or find another visa for which you might be eligible). However, USCIS will not approve your visa if you cannot show that you either have family ties back home, job opportunities, or other reasons that show that you are not intending to stay.
Remember as well that the school you wish to attend must be approved by the United States government. You cannot just attend any school that accepts you.
Be sure to speak with your prospective school’s guidance counselor about opportunities to study before you apply. In addition, consulting with an immigration lawyer that can guide you through this process is incredibly important to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes that could delay or harm your chances to study in the United States.
While these student visas might sound similar, choosing the right visa can make a major difference in your future, and it all depends on what type of education you plan to receive.
Be very careful about who you speak with about your obtaining your visa, accepting offers to pay for your education, and any promises that a school or a person makes you when applying to USCIS.
With preparation, attention to detail, and a sincere desire to further your education, you can make your decision to study in the United States meaningful and rewarding.
Need help with this?
I can guide you through the process. Just schedule an appointment with me to get started!
Every year, millions of people from around the world visit the USA for tourism and short-term business. It is very easy to make a mistake during the visa application process.
If you plan to visit the USA on business, here are three key things you should know to acquire a business visa:
1. Know where you’re going – in detail.
Business Visitor visas require definite activities. You must be going to the United States with pre-arranged plans in mind, and have your goals already laid out at the time you visit the U.S. Consulate for your interview.
Your activities must also be specific. You must be able to share with the Consulate who you plan to meet with, why you plan to meet with them, and what schedule you have laid out to accomplish the purpose of your visit.
If you do not have plans set in stone, or if you come across uncertain of your plans, there is a good chance that your Business Visitor visa will be denied.
An example: If you’re attending a conference, provide a schedule or itinerary of that conference and have proof that you are registered. If you plan to make deals with businesses, make a list of the companies and people that you plan to meet and include their contact information.
To further increase your chances of success, have the people who you plan to meet with write you letters (on letterhead) confirming your appointments.
Providing a paper trail of your discussions that lead up to your visit to the Unites States go a long way with the consular officer who will be analyzing every detail of your application.
2. Get a recommendation letter from your company in support of your trip.
This is not just recommended: this is a must. Your company’s recommendation letter (and it must be on letterhead) should be addressed to the U.S. consulate in your country and offer support for your visit to the USA.
This letter should include:
Information about the company
Your employment history and job title
The reason why the company is sending you
Travel dates, work schedule and company goals
A statement that you will be paid by the company for the trip
Reasons why you intend to return home
Small businesses need a lot more information. If you work for a small business, it is best to contact the nearest U.S. Consulate in your country before you apply and ask what information they will need to verify that your small business is legitimate.
3. Remember: a “Business Visa” is NOT a “Work Visa.”
This is perhaps the most common misconception about Business Visitor visas. Business Visitor visas are meant for employees of existing businesses abroad. You cannot work for anybody but your own company on a Business Visitor visa. You also must be supervised by (and receive pay from) the company in your home country.
Do not use the Business Visitor visa to look for work in the USA.
This could be considered visa fraud, and the consequences can be severe. If you think there is a chance that you may receive a job opportunity (for example, from somebody you meet at a networking event), you should share this with the consular officer reviewing your application and ask for his/her guidance on how to approach the situation.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of what’s required to obtain a Temporary Business Visitor visa. Rather, these are frequent questions and common mistakes that applicants make in the process.
For detailed information about the Temporary Business Visitor visa, you can visit the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a step-by-step process.
https://www.uscis.gov/working-united- states/temporary-visitors- business/b-1- temporary-business- visitor
https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/b- 1-business- visitor/b-1- visa
Each year, millions of people from around the world visit the United States for tourism and short-term business. It is very easy to make a mistake during the visa application process.
If you plan to visit the USA for tourism, here are three important things that you should know:
1. Get access to a computer.
Without internet, the visa process will be a complicated one. For citizens of most* countries (see below), the first step in getting a tourist visa is submitting an online application.
You must also have a contact email address. Only after submitting the online application can you schedule your visa interview at a U.S. Consulate.
2. Organize your finances.
Last month, I worked with a Cambodian woman who wished to visit her family in the United States.
Even despite challenges such as her lack of computer access and language barrier, completing her application was a real struggle, especially when it came to her finances.
This woman worked in subsistence farming in a rural area of the country. Her income fluctuated with the seasons, and she often depended on support from her family in the U.S.
Because of this, financial information was scarce and she was unable to show how much she earned. A lack of verifiable pay is insufficient for a successful visa application.
However, she was able to overcome this dilemma. In order to complete her application (which requires a monthly income), she took her previous years’ income and divided by twelve. By doing so, she was able to complete this application, and satisfy this portion of her visa application.
Many tourists, especially those with family in the United States, do not make very much money. If your income would be considered ‘impoverished’ by U.S. standards, you will need a U.S. based financial sponsor to support you.
Sponsorships require detailed information from the sponsor, and he/she will need to fill out a sponsorship form with physical proof of his/her income and send it to you.
3. Purchase refundable airfare.
Travel plans can be a “Catch-22” – they can create a difficult situation if you do not want to make travel arrangements until your visa is approved, but need to show your travel arrangements in order to obtain your visa.
This is a common question I receive, and unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.
However, the best chance to minimize risk is to purchase refundable tickets around the same time that you schedule your visa interview. While refundable tickets might be more expensive, the credibility that you’ll earn by having proof of your travel plans (especially your return home) is well-worth the price.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of what’s required to obtain a Tourist Visitor visa. Rather, these are frequent questions and common mistakes that applicants make in the process.
For detailed information about the Tourist Visitor visa, you can visit the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a step-by- step process.
*Citizens of many countries are exempt from the B-1/B- 2 visa requirement for visits up to 90 days.
You can see if your country might qualify for an exemption by clicking here.