In this second post about the U Visa, I’d like to delve deeper into some frequently asked questions about the U Visa. As a Miami immigration lawyer, one of the first things that I look for when evaluating the viability of a case is eligibility. Below are some frequently asked questions.
I am interested in applying for the U Visa. What kind of criteria do I have to meet?
In order to apply for a U visa, you must meet the following criteria and provide substantial evidence to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- You must have been a victim of a “qualifying criminal activity,” and this crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. law. Indirect and bystander victims are also eligible to apply in certain circumstances. For example, a murder victim obviously cannot benefit from a U visa, but another person who witnessed the murder or a close family member who was impacted by it may have information that is helpful to law enforcement.
- In the course of this criminal activity, you must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse.
- You have useful information about this criminal activity (or if under age 16, your parent, guardian or “next friend” such as a counselor or social worker can provide this information for you).
- You (or your parent, guardian, or next friend) have been or will be “helpful” to law enforcement in order to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.
- You are admissible to the United States or you are applying for a waiver using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
You can apply for a U visa from within the U.S. or abroad at a U.S. consulate. If you have any questions in regard to your eligibility, do not guess. It is best to consult with a Miami immigration lawyer.
What are the qualifying crimes for a U Visa?
In a typical U visa case, you will have been the victim of a serious crime that took place in the United States. In some cases, however, the crime might have violated U.S. laws overseas (such as a human trafficking or kidnapping crime). Some examples of qualifying crimes include, but are not limited to the following:
- Violent crimes: murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, robbery, felonious assault (what qualifies as felonious assault can differ, but usually involves the use of a deadly weapon, and can include statutory rape and other offenses), and domestic violence. Stalking was also added to the list of crimes for petitions filed after March 7, 2013.
- Enslavement crimes: criminal restraint, kidnapping, abduction, being held hostage, forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, indentured or debt servitude, and false imprisonment.
- Sex crimes: rape, incest, sexual trafficking, sexual assault and abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation.
- Obstruction of justice crimes: perjury, witness tampering, withholding evidence.
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting: a later addition to the statute, made in 2014.
Again, if you have any questions as to the qualifying crimes for a U Visa, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
I think I might qualify based on the criteria above, however the crimes wasn’t “completed.” Do I still have relief?
The crime need not have been “completed” in order for it to qualify. An attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit one of the above-mentioned crimes is enough. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
What else do I have to prove in order to be eligible for the U Visa?
First, is not enough to merely be victim of a qualifying crime. You must have suffered substantial physical injury or mental anguish as a result of this criminal activity and you must provide USCIS with medical records and affidavits to support your claim. In determining whether the injury you suffered was “substantial,” USCIS will consider how severe the injury was, for how long the abuse occurred, and how likely it is to cause you lasting or permanent harm. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to consult a Miami immigration lawyer.
What kind of information should I provide to law enforcement?
One of the reasons for the authorization of U visas is that many U.S. immigrants do not provide information to law enforcement due to cultural differences, language barriers, and fear of deportation. Due to this reluctance to report, many perpetrators of serious crime have viewed immigrants as an excellent “target.”
In order to further the public safety objectives of these visas, your petition must be certified by a police officer (or other law enforcement official) who will attest that you were a victim of a qualifying crime and you are likely to be helpful to an investigation or prosecution of the crime. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
What if I have inadmissibility issues?
To be eligible for a U visa, you must not be “inadmissible” to the United States. This means that you would not be barred from U.S. entry due to factors such as multiple criminal convictions, immigration violations, certain medical conditions, or any of several other reasons. You need not, however, worry about being inadmissible as a likely public charge (someone who might have to rely on need-based public assistance), which does not apply to U visa applicants as of 2014. If you have any questions in regard to inadmissibility, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
Can my family members already receive U visas?
Your family members may be eligible to receive derivative U visas. However, they have to meet the following criteria, including, but not limited to:
- unmarried children under age 21
- parents (if principal petitioner is under age 21), and
- unmarried siblings under 18 years old (if principal petitioner is under age 21).
If you would like more information on the U Visa, please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at murraysilva.com.