In addition to family and employment-based visas, the United States offers support to certain crime victims through the U visa program. At the Solano Law Firm, we provide both legal representation and emotional support to victims and their families while they pursue these non-immigrant visas. Keep reading to learn more about U visas, your eligibility, and how our immigration lawyers can help.
What Is a U Visa?
In 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. This law’s purpose was strengthening law enforcement’s ability to pursue criminals involved in human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes. The lawmakers realized that in order to build trust with immigrant communities and protect witnesses, the U visa program was a necessary part of law enforcement’s toolbox.
U visas are given to certain crime victims who:
- suffered physical or emotional abuse and
- cooperate with law enforcement investigations and prosecution of their abuser.
If your U visa application is approved, it is valid for up to four years. During this time you can legally live and work in the United States. Most importantly, after three years, most U visa holders can apply for their green card and obtain legal permanent residency.
Who Is Eligible for a U Visa?
You are eligible for a U visa if you can prove that you:
- Were the victim of crime covered by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act;
- Experienced substantial physical or emotional abuse;
- Have credible and reliable information about the crime; and
- Are cooperating with the investigation of the crime and law enforcement authorities issued you a Law Enforcement Certification
The list of covered crimes is extensive and includes aggravated assault, abduction, domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. If you need help understanding whether you’re eligible for a U visa, consult with one of the experienced immigration lawyers at the Solano Law Firm.
Sometimes, you may even be eligible for a U visa even if you have your own criminal record. However, if you are undocumented or have a serious criminal record, you may need to apply for a waiver and complete a series of complicated forms. Because so much is at stake, it’s always best to consult with an immigration lawyer before starting the waiver process.
Finally, a U visa can also cover the crime victim’s family members. If you 21 years old or older, your U visa application can also include your spouse and children. If you are under the age of 21, your petition can include your spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings who are under the age of 18.
How Do I Apply for a U Visa?
To apply for a U visa, you must complete a series of immigration forms and provide significant documentation that supports your claim. This process involves submitting:
- Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918)
- Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918B)
- Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (Form I-192), when applicable
- A statement that summarizes the underlying criminal case
- Other documents and forms that support your eligibility
Importantly, Form I-918B must be signed by a law enforcement official who is supervising your criminal case. This form confirms your eligibility and that you are cooperating with the criminal investigation and the perpetrator’s prosecution. Once the law enforcement officer signs form I-918B, you must submit your U visa application within 6 months of the date on the I-918B or you must obtain a new Form I-918. If you’re having problems obtaining this certification, contact an immigration lawyer at our office immediately.
However, you do not have to wait until the perpetrator who harmed you is arrested or convicted to apply for a U visa. You only have to show that you’re cooperating with law enforcement. While your need to cooperate will vary, depending on the nature of the crime and prosecution, you don’t need to wait until there’s a jury verdict to start the immigration process. Instead, contact the Solano Law Firm today to discuss the U visa application process and your eligibility.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for My U Visa Application?
A successful U visa application requires extensive documentation, detailed disclosures, and sometimes complicated discussions with law enforcement and immigration authorities. While an immigrant can apply for a visa on their own, it’s typically not in your best interest. You have a lot at stake and a single mistake can threaten you and your family’s legal immigration status. This is especially true if you need to complete a waiver or the law enforcement agency is initially unwilling to complete a certification on your behalf.
Rather than take this risk, we think it’s best to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer at the Solano Law Firm. We’ve built a reputation for our practical and honest approach to immigration law. We treat crime victims and their families with the respect and sensitivity that they deserve.
Our goal is to help you navigate this difficult process and streamline your visa application. In addition to overseeing your application and completing forms, we’ll carefully explain each step to you and keep you up-to-date about your application. We’ll also provide the emotional support that you need during a difficult time.
Request a U Visa Consultation With Solano Law Firm
A U visa can protect you and your family while you help law enforcement officials with their important work. If you’re ready to learn more about the U visa application process and your family’s eligibility, contact the Solano Law Firm. With offices in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Tampa, our immigration attorneys are easily accessible and would love to hear your story. Contact us today for a confidential and free evaluation of your immigration claims.