The U visa was originally established in order to provide victims of crimes a means of protection. According to the law, in order to be considered for a U visa, you must be a victim of a crime who has suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and you must be willing to assist law enforcement and/or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
The U visa was established in October of 2000 in conjunction with the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. This Act worked to empower law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute more crimes related to domestic violence, trafficking of aliens, and sexual assault. Along with law enforcement empowerment, the Act and the U visa were meant to allow for increased aid to the victims of these crimes.
Being Considered for a U Visa
Specifically, the four elements that must be shown by the alien in order to be considered for a U visa are:
- The alien must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of qualifying criminal activity;
- The alien must have information concerning that criminal activity;
- The alien must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is expected to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution related to the criminal activity; and
- The incident involved is considered to be a crime under U.S. law.
Some examples of criminal activity that falls into the parameters of a U visa are domestic violence, prostitution, rape, and false imprisonment.
Completing an Application
When an alien applies for a U visa, the application must include detailed information as to how the victim can aid government officials in learning more about the criminal activity. Cooperation with local law enforcement is required and can be extended over a period of time.
A portion of the application will need to be certified by a law enforcement agency that is working on the investigation related to the crime of which the applicant was a victim. Once the proper party has certified that the victim is willing to work with law enforcement, the application process may continue. However, if at any time the applicant-victim chooses to discontinue his involvement with the investigation, the application may be revocable.
How Long will a U Visa Last?
U visas will generally not surpass four years. However, an individual may be granted an extension after four years if proper certification is applied by a certifying agency stating that the alien's presence in the U.S. is required in order to assist in the investigation or prosecution regarding the crime at issue.
Is There a Limited Amount of U Visas?
While it may seem strange, there is a limit on the amount of U visas USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) may grant each year. USCIS will not allocate more than 10,000 of these visas yearly. This number does not include family members who would be affected by the alien's removal.
In the event that the allotted amount has been reached for any given year, USCIS will institute a waiting list for those who are are able to meet all the requirements of a U visa. This will allow for the alien's immigration status to remain steady until a U visa is available.
Should You Get an Attorney?
Issues related to immigration, deportation, and visas are detailed and costly. Based on this, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced immigration attorney in your area who will help you understand the laws and will provide you with the help you need.
To schedule an initial consultation with our Tucson, Arizona, lawyer, call (520) 882-8852 or toll free at (877) 882-8852 or email the Tucson, Arizona, Law Offices of Matthew H. Green.