If you are the victim of certain serious crimes, you may be able to apply for a U visa, even if you entered the U.S. illegally. This is a nonimmigrant visa that grants employment authorization for up to four years. After remaining in valid U status for three years, you can apply for lawful permanent residency (a green card). A U visa application also allows you to include qualifying family members as well, so that if your visa is approved, your family members’ visas and employment authorization will also be approved. There is a yearly cap placed on U visas; only 10,000 are available each year. (This limitation does not apply to the qualifying family members that you want to include in your visa application.) Camille K. Cook is a strong advocate for non-citizen victims of crimes and has successfully represented dozens of U visa applications.
How do I qualify for a U-visa?
Eligibility for a U visa requires you:
- To prove that you were a victim of certain serious crimes that were committed in the U.S. (or that violated U.S. laws);
- To prove that as a result of the crime(s), you suffered physical and/or mental hardship;
- To help with the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime; and
- To get an official from a law enforcement agency (federal, state, or local) to sign a U visa certification form.
What crimes may qualify?
The list of qualifying serious crimes is long and includes blackmail, domestic violence, kidnapping, prostitution, rape, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and witness tampering. If you have been a victim of a serious crime, even if it occurred several years ago, you may be eligible to apply for a U visa, and you should consult with our attorneys to make certain.
What family members may be included under my U-visa application?
All U visa petitioners may also include their spouse and children. If you are under 21 years old, you may additionally petition on behalf of parents and unmarried siblings who are under the age of 18.
What is a U-visa certification form?
The U visa certification is a form that a law enforcement agency official, such as a police officer, fills out to tell USCIS that you have cooperated with law enforcement officials in investigating and prosecuting the crime. The official must be the head of the agency, or a person at the agency who is in charge of issuing U visa certifications.
Can I get a work permit while my U-visa application is pending?
Yes. U-visa applicants and their derivatives may be eligible for work permits if they meet certain requirements. If you have a pending U-visa application, speak to an attorney to see if you may be eligible for a work permit while your application is pending.