A CRIME VICTIM CAN POTENTIALLY GET A VISA, AND EVENTUALLY LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENCY, BASED ON THEIR COOPERATION WITH THE POLICE OR DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE.
To make sure that immigration laws do not discourage immigrants in the U.S. without lawful immigration status from cooperating with law enforcement or reporting crime, Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000.
The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of noncitizens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa category in the United States that is available to victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful or willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A “U VISA” OR BEING GRANTED U NONIMMIGRANT STATUS?
To be eligible for a U visa, an individual must meet several criteria, including:
- Qualifying Criminal Activity: The individual must have been a victim of one or more qualifying crimes.
- Substantial Abuse: The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity.
- Cooperation with Law Enforcement: The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- Admissibility: The individual must meet the admissibility requirements for entry into the United States, or they may be eligible for a waiver of certain grounds of inadmissibility.
WHAT ARE QUALIFYING CRIMES FOR A U VISA?
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Felonious assault
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Hostage situations
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Other similar activities related to violation of U.S. laws
It’s important to note that the U visa is granted on a case-by-case basis, and the determination of eligibility is made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after a thorough review of the applicant’s circumstances. Additionally, the list of qualifying crimes is not exhaustive, and USCIS may consider other criminal activities on a case-specific basis. If you believe you may qualify for a U visa, it is recommended to consult with an immigration attorney for guidance tailored to your specific situation.
If you were the victim of any crime, even if it is not listed, you should consult an immigration attorney to see if it may be a qualifying crime. Some terms are difficult to define and some crimes may be named differently in different jurisdictions.
More information on U Visas and qualifying crimes here.