Pennsylvania U Visa Attorney Helping Crime Victims Find Safety
Crime is an issue in every country in the world, and the United States is no exception. Unfortunately, having crime means also having victims, and it can be very difficult for victims to rebuild or move on with their lives without support. If you were the victim of a crime, you might be able to use a U visa to stay in the United States if you are willing to cooperate with the police. Find out more about this option and what it could mean for you below.
If you think you may qualify to gain nonimmigrant status under a U visa, call our law firm to speak to an immigration attorney. We can help you better understand whether you meet the eligibility requirements and prepare you for your responsibilities in cooperating with the police. Our office can also provide information and resources on applying for an adjustment of status to get a Green Card at a later date.
What Is a U Visa?
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a U visa grants nonimmigrant status and is “set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.” The U visa option was created in 2000 after Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. A U visa allows those who are victims of crimes to stay in the United States in exchange for helping with the investigation and prosecution of those who were involved in criminal activity.
The number of U visas granted each year is limited to 10,000, but this limit only applies to the principal petitioner. Any derivative family members, such as children, may be granted along with the principal petitioner without counting against the years limit.
What Are the U Visa Eligibility Requirements?
To be eligible for a U visa, you must be able to show that you have been the victim of a crime that qualifies for this status. You must also have suffered either mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime. When you apply for a U visa, you must be willing to help the authorities throughout their investigation, which could include testifying against the person who committed the crime, and you have to have valuable information about the criminal activity. There is a provision for victims under the age of 16 or those with disabilities that would keep them from being able to cooperate with the police. In these cases, the victim can have a guardian, friend, or parent provide assistance to the authorities in the victim’s stead.
What Kinds of Crimes Qualify for a U Visa?
Only certain kinds of crimes are considered qualifying crimes for a U visa. In general, more serious crimes, such as felonies and those that are prosecuted at the federal level, qualify.
- Domestic violence
- Female genital mutilation
- Felonious assault
- Abusive sexual contact
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual exploitation
Crimes Against Humans:
- False imprisonment
- Involuntary servitude
- Slave trade
- Unlawful criminal restraint
Fraud and Nonviolent Crimes:
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Obstruction of justice
- Witness tampering
Attempt to conspire to commit or solicit any of the above crimes also qualifies. To be a qualifying crime, the crime must also have occurred within the United States or be in direct violation of U.S. laws.
Can You Legally Work With a U Visa?
Yes, being granted a U visa allows you to work in the United States, which can help you support yourself and your family as you start to move forward with your life. If you plan on working, it’s a good idea to go ahead and submit an application for a work permit when you apply for your U visa, but you can also apply for the work permit anytime after the U visa has been granted.
How Long Is a U Visa Valid For?
U visas are valid for a period of four years, but they can be extended under certain circumstances. These include a request from law enforcement because they need the continued cooperation of the victim and exceptional circumstances, which can cover many factors. A U visa may also be extended if there were delays in processing at the consulate or if the person has filed an application for an adjustment of status and is waiting for a decision.
If you wish to remain in the country, you may want to talk with an immigration attorney about working on becoming a lawful permanent resident, also known as a Green Card holder. Once you have lawful permanent resident status, you will be able to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis and may eventually be able to apply for citizenship.
Can Family Members Be Included in a U Visa?
Family members can’t be included on the principal petitioner’s visa application, but they can be eligible for a derivative U visa once the principal’s has been granted. Those under the age of 21 can file a petition for their parents, children, spouse, and any unmarried minor siblings to be included on a derivative U visa. If you are 21 or older, only your spouse or children can be included on a derivative visa.
If you need help applying for a U visa or have other questions about immigration, contact The Law Office of Rosina C. Stambaugh at 717-900-1818. Our legal team is standing by to answer your questions and ensure that you understand all of your options. We can help you decide which visa makes the most sense for your situation and provide counsel throughout the application process.