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U Visa Protects Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse and Other Crimes

Non-citizen victims of crime are often hesitant to seek help from law enforcement, and this uncertainty makes them easy prey for criminals. In 2000, Congress took a large step toward alleviating this problem with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and the creation of the U visa.

Eligibility for the U Visa

The U visa is reserved for victims of certain crimes who:

  • Have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse,
  • Have information about criminal activity, and
  • Assist law enforcement or other governmental entities in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity

If the victim is under the age of 16 or is disabled, a third party such as a parent, guardian, or appointed representative may provide the assistance to law enforcement in the victim’s place.

The victim generally must be otherwise admissible to the United States. However, a victim who otherwise qualifies but is inadmissible may apply for a waiver.

Qualifying Criminal Activity

The U visa was created to assist law enforcement in prosecuting crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking of aliens, while also protecting the victims of such crimes. 28 crimes are specified as qualifying crimes, but other similar or related crimes may provide grounds for issuance of a U visa. Some of the most common crimes listed include:

  • Kidnapping or Abduction
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Assault or Rape
  • Human Trafficking
  • Incest
  • Manslaughter or Murder
  • Prostitution

The crime must either be committed in the United States or be a violation of U.S. law. However, the crime need not be successfully executed in order to quality. The attempt to commit, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation to commit any qualifying crime is itself a qualifying crime.

Obtaining a Green Card with a U Visa

The U visa is issued for a period of four years. The primary applicant is employment authorized. Family members who are admitted to the United States based on the petition are also employment eligible, though they must affirmatively file for authorization.

A U visa holder is eligible for a green card if the visa holder:

  • Has provided the requested assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution to the best of his or her ability,
  • Has been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of 3 years,
  • Is otherwise admissible under the Immigration Nationality Act, and
  • Can show that his or her presence in the United States is warranted for humanitarian reasons, in the interest of family unity, or in the public interest.

The U Visa in Domestic Violence Cases

Foreign victims of domestic violence face special challenges. While separating from an abuser can be difficult for any victim, legal complications and cultural norms often create higher barriers and more treacherous roads to freedom for foreign citizens. The U visa is just one of the ways that U.S. immigration law offers protection to domestic abuse victims. These victims may also be eligible to seek asylum in the United States. In addition, the law provides a path for victims who are in the United States on a marriage-based visa to petition for immigrant status independent of and without the knowledge of the abusive spouse.

Help is Available for Foreign National Crime Victims

If you have been the victim of a crime and are willing to assist law enforcement in bringing the criminal to justice, you may be eligible for the four-year, non-immigrant U visa. Ultimately, the U visa could open the door to permanent legal residence, and perhaps even citizenship. Take the first step toward protecting yourself, your family, and your community today, by scheduling a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer.

The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm helps people with U.S. immigration matters. For more information, call (650) 931-2509 or fill out the contact form on this site.