Legal Status for Crime Victims and their Family Members
By Raul Ray, Esq.
•U nonimmigrant status for victims of crimes
If you are or were the victim of a certain crime in the USA, you as well as certain family members may be eligible to receive what is called U nonimmigrant status or U visa.
The U nonimmigrant status /visa was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. The law is designed to provide lawful status to noncitizen victim of crimes who assisted, are currently assisting or are willing to assist law enforcement in investigating crimes. The cap on the number of U visas that may be granted to principal applicants per year is 10,000. On the other hand, there is no cap limit for family members deriving status from the principal applicant, such as spouses, children, or other eligible family members.
If the annual U visa cap is reached prior to the adjudication of all pending U nonimmigrant applications, eligible principal or derivative applicants who are awaiting a final decision on their U nonimmigrant application will be placed on a waiting list by USCIS. Those on the waiting list will be granted deferred action or parole and will be eligible to apply for an employment authorization card.
•What are the requirements for U nonimmigrant status or U visa?
The victim suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a certain crime.
The victim has useful information concerning the crime which occurred.
The victim has helped, or is likely to help, in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
The crime that was committed violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States.
•Need Certification from Law enforcement
Before you can actually start the application process for U nonimmigrant status, an immigrant who is the victim of one of the crimes listed below must obtain a law enforcement certification from a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
•Demonstrate that you are admissible
U visa applicants must also show that they are “admissible” or that they qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility if they are not admissible because of a criminal conviction, fraud or misrepresentation or unlawful presence in the USA.
•U visa versus U Status
Depending on where the applicant is living, they may be granted a U visa or U nonimmigrant Status. If a crime victim or family member resides outside the USA and their U application is approved, they will receive a U visa stamp in their foreign passport which will permit them to enter the USA. If an applicant is already living in the USA, they will receive U nonimmigrant status.
•Which family members can apply for U visa or U nonimmigrant Status?
Certain family members of the crime victim may also be eligible to receive U nonimmigrant status as well. A crime victim who is under 21 years of age, may submit an application on behalf of their spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18. A crime victim who is 21 years of age or older, may only submit an application on behalf of their spouse and children.
•So which crimes are covered?
The law covers a broad range of serious crimes. To qualify for a U visa or nonimmigrant status, you must be a victim or the victim of an attempt of one of the following felonies or any similar criminal activity:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Felonious assault
- Female genital mutilation
- Hostage situations
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Witness tampering
- Attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of these crimes
•Can crime victims and family members apply for a Green Card?
Once crime victims and their family members have held U visa or nonimmigrant status for three years, they can apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, (USCIS) for a green card or what is commonly referred to as lawful permanent resident status.
•What are the requirements to apply for a Green Card?
In order to qualify for a green card after three years in U status , eligible crime victims and family members must prove that they:
(1)Have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for 3 years or longer;
(2) Have not unreasonably refused to assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting the crime against you;
(3) Are not inadmissible to the U.S. due to participation in Nazi persecution, genocide, or extrajudicial killings; and
(4) Can demonstrate to USCIS that allowing you to become a permanent resident is justified on humanitarian, public interest, or family unity grounds.
•Can a family member who never held U status or received a U visa still apply for a green card as well?
A qualifying family member who never held U status or obtained a U visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy, can still apply for a green card if they are living in the USA and meet the following requirements:
(1) Have an approved Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant
(2) Can show that the U-1 principal would suffer extreme hardship if he or she were forced to leave the USA, and
(3) Is not inadmissible to the United States due to participation in Nazi persecution, genocide, or extrajudicial killings.
Finally, it’s important to remember that even if the crime occurred several years ago, the crime victim can still apply for U visa or nonimmigrant status if they meet all eligibility requirements. There is no time limit as to when the crime must have occurred.
•Remember contact ONLY a qualified immigration lawyer or an accredited representative for legal advice or immigration relief concerning your case.
•We will continue to keep you apprised on the very latest immigration news around the country.
For more information please feel free to contact Raul Ray, Attorney at Law, at Law Offices of Raul Ray, (408)279-5793, 1671 The Alameda, Suite 200, San Jose, CA 95126. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.