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The U visa is a powerful tool for victims of certain crimes who are in the United States and who have suffered physical or mental abuse. This visa provides protection and a path to lawful immigration status for those who have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of it. In this blog, we will guide you through the process of obtaining a U visa.
1. Eligibility Criteria
Before applying for a U visa, it’s essential to determine if you meet the eligibility criteria. To qualify, you must:
- Be a victim of a qualifying crime, which includes but is not limited to domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and certain other types.
- Have suffered physical or mental abuse.
- Possess information about the crime and be willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of it.
2. Report the Crime and Cooperate with Law Enforcement
The cornerstone of U visa eligibility is cooperation with law enforcement. This means that you must report the crime to the appropriate law enforcement agency and be willing to assist them in the investigation or prosecution of the case. This can involve providing information, testifying in court, or cooperating in other ways as required.
3. Obtain a Certification Form (Form I-918, Supplement B)
Once you have reported the crime and cooperated with law enforcement, you can request a U visa certification form (Form I-918, Supplement B) from the law enforcement agency handling your case. This form is essential evidence of your cooperation and is typically required as part of your U visa application.
4. Gather Supporting Documentation
While waiting for the certification form, gather all necessary supporting documentation for your U visa application. This may include:
- Personal statement detailing it and its impact on you.
- Medical records or psychological evaluations documenting any physical or mental abuse.
- Police reports, court records, or other evidence related to the crime.
- Any additional evidence demonstrating your cooperation with law enforcement.
5. Complete and Submit Form I-918
Once you have the required certification form and supporting documents, you can complete and submit Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. Include all relevant information and evidence as instructed in the form’s instructions.
6. Await USCIS Decision
After submitting your U visa petition, USCIS will review your application, conduct background checks, and assess your eligibility. If approved, you will be granted U nonimmigrant status, which is valid for four years, with the possibility of extensions.
7. Apply for a Work Permit (Form I-765)
U visa holders are eligible to apply for a work permit (Form I-765) that allows them to legally work in the United States while in U nonimmigrant status.
8. Seek Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Resident
After three years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. as a U visa holder and meeting other eligibility requirements, you can apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder). This process involves submitting Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
The U visa provides vital protection and immigration relief to victims of qualifying crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. This visa allows victims to rebuild their lives in the United States and contribute to the community without fear of deportation. If you believe you meet the eligibility criteria for a U visa, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the application process and help ensure your rights are protected as a victim of crime.