What is a U visa?
A lesser known visa, the U non-immigrant visa, was established for illegal immigrants who are victims of crimes. While living illegally here in the U.S., these victims must have endured mental or physical abuse and be willing to help law enforcement and government officials investigate and prosecute the abuser. The U non-immigrant visa was established in 2000 but put on hold until 2007. It was created to persuade illegal immigrants living in the U.S. to report violent crimes. Most criminal activity against illegal aliens in the U.S. goes unreported and undocumented due to the threat of deportation if the victim comes forward.
What are the eligibility requirements?
- The victim/applicant must have endured physical or mental abuse from a qualifying criminal activity.
- The victim/applicant is able to provide information regarding the particular criminal activity.
- He/She must be helpful during the investigation or prosecution phase of the crime.
- The crime must violate the laws of the United States.
- The crime must have occurred in the U.S.
Examples of violations of U.S., state or local laws include but are not limited to: domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, prostitution, incest, torture, genital mutilation, abduction, kidnapping, involuntary servitude, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter and murder.
Can you work with a U visa?
Although the U visa is a non-immigrant status visa, the illegal immigrant applicant who has been awarded “deferred” status may apply for an Application for Employment Authorization. This authorization permit, if granted, will be reviewed on a yearly basis.
As with all applications submitted to USCIS, documentation must accompany any forms filed for a U visa. Proof, such as:
- a letter certified by local, state or federal law enforcement
- medical records
- personal testimony
- other related evidence
The application process can be tedious followed by a lengthy waiting period of sometimes up to a year. An experienced immigration attorney can ensure proper filing of the application and speed up the process. Eliana Phelps is a California immigration attorney and a leading authority on the U visa process. For more information, please contact her at phelpsattorneys.com.