If you’re a non-citizen of the United States and have been targeted as a victim of crime, you might be able to stay here to help the police investigate the offense. This applies even if you’ve been living in the U.S. illegally.
Once the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) approves you, the U Visa will give you and your immediate family the ability to live and work here. After three years, you may apply to get a green card and permanent residency. It’s advisable that you work with an immigration attorney during this process.
What to Keep in Mind About the U Visa
- You may be able to get a U Visa, even if you were living undocumented in the U.S.
- The Department of Homeland Security defines U Visa holders as either direct or indirect victims of crime
- To qualify for U Status, you must be willing to assist in the investigation of the crime you were affected by
- In some cases, working with an immigration attorney will be essential for your success in achieving your goals
Direct Victims for the U Visa
You may qualify as a direct victim for U Visa reasons if you’ve experienced direct or “proximate” harm due to certain criminal activities. Proximate harm generally means that the perpetrator’s actions contributed significantly to causing the victim harm (domestic violence, for example).
Note that physical harm doesn’t necessarily need to take place for someone to qualify as a direct victim. Solicitation, conspiracy, or attempts to commit a crime would also count as qualifying criminal activity for the U Visa. The crime must have violated U.S. law or occurred in the United States.
Indirect Victims for the U Visa
In some cases, family members may apply as indirect victims for U Visa purposes, when the main victim of a crime died due to manslaughter or murder or is unable to assist in the criminal investigation of the crime due to incapacitation or incompetence. An indirect victim still must show that they’re eligible for U Visa status, meaning they’re willing to help with the investigation, already are, or have helped in the past.
They must also show that they suffered significant harm due to the crime and are either admissible to the United States or eligible to receive a waiver. For example, if a noncitizen’s child was killed, the mother may have been traumatized by the loss and suffered significant emotional damage as a result. If she helped law enforcement with their investigation by offering information about her child (the victim) and events that were relevant to the crime, she would qualify as an indirect victim.
How does Age Play a Role in “Indirect Victim” Status?
USCIS will consider the age of the victim when the crime took place to determine whether someone qualifies as an indirect victim. For victims of crime who are at least 21, their children (who are younger than 21) and their spouse may count as indirect victims.
For victims of crime who are younger than 21, their minor (under 18) unmarried siblings can count as indirect victims. USCIS essentially counts minors as “incapacitated” people, meaning that their family members will often count as indirect victims of crime. No matter the case, though, the noncitizen must show that they meet the eligibility requirements for a U Visa or U Status.
How Working With an Attorney Can Help
If you’ve gone through any processes related to immigration, you probably already know that it can be a stressful and time-consuming ordeal. It involves extensive paperwork that can be intimidating, especially if English isn’t your first language. And there are many complicating factors that can delay the immigration process or make it more difficult and expensive.
Having a skilled attorney on your side can make all the difference in your peace of mind at this time and your odds of a favorable outcome. Your immigration attorney will be able to explain your situation in a way you understand and give you advice based on their experience.
Frequently Asked Questions on the U Visa
Here are some common queries related to immigration in the United States:
Q: Who counts as a bystander according to U Visa definitions?
USCIS may allow bystanders to attain U Status as direct victims if they underwent unusually severe harm after witnessing the crime. An example of this would be a woman suffering a miscarriage due to witnessing a crime taking place.
Q: Does any type of crime make me eligible for U Status?
No, there is a specific list of crimes that make you eligible for a U Visa according to USCIS rules. However, victims can generally achieve benefits after being either directly or indirectly involved with crimes that include violence. A few examples of qualifying crimes are sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, human trafficking, felonious assault, and more.
Q: Do I need to provide a record of my injuries to prove that I’m a victim?
Yes, you must show medical records to prove that you’ve received treatment for the psychological or physical suffering caused by the crime.
Q: Can I leave the United States for travel after I’ve received my U Visa?
Yes, you are allowed to travel outside the country but must get your U Visa stamped at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you travel to.
What to Do if You Need Help with U Visa or Immigration Questions
If you’re stuck in the application process or just have questions about your U Status, speaking with an immigration attorney will be immensely helpful. Attempting to go through the process on your own increases the risk that you make a mistake on your application.
If you’ve previously been denied a visa or have criminal offenses on your record, it’s even more important that you seek professional legal counsel before you proceed with your application. A skilled attorney has seen cases like yours before and will know which path is most likely to lead to success for you.
Call our Immigration team at (480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.
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