Victims of certain crimes may qualify for U visa

Victims of certain crimes may qualify for U visa

If you are a victim of a crime who have suffered mental or physical abuse because of the crime, and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation of the criminal activity, you may be entitled to an immigration relief under the U Non-Immigrant Interim Relief Program.

The U nonimmigrant visa was created by the US Congress with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000.
The intent of the legislation is to protect immigrants from serious crimes, as well as strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes.

Here are some questions and answers to help you better understand the U non-immigrant visa program.

Q: What qualifies as a criminal activity?
A qualifying criminal activity is one involving one or more of a long list of activities that violate federal, state, or local criminal law, including murder, abduction, rape, torture, sexual exploitation, kidnapping, manslaughter, blackmail, incest, extortion, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, false imprisonment, perjury, witness tampering, peonage, prostitution, slave trade, sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, involuntary servitude, and trafficking.

Q: How does one become eligible for U non-immigrant status?
To qualify for a U non-immigrant status, the alien must meet the following requirements:
• The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
• He must have information concerning the criminal activity;
• He or she has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
• The criminal activity must have violated the laws of the US or occurred in the US.

Q:   What prevents any foreign national from claiming this status by saying he was a victim of a crime?
In order to file for that status, the alien must provide a certification from a federal, state, or local law enforcement official certifying the following:

• The alien has been a victim of qualifying criminal activity;
• The alien possesses information about the qualifying criminal activity; and
• The alien has been, is being or is likely to be helpful to the investigation and/or prosecution of that qualifying criminal activity.

This certification must be executed using the U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918, Supplement B). USCIS will give the certification significant weight during adjudication. However, the certification alone will not be the sole evidence that a petitioner meets eligibility requirements. USCIS will look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the petition before rendering a decision.

Q: What qualifies as a “certifying agency”?
Qualified certifying agencies include federal, state or local law enforcement agencies; or other agencies that have criminal investigative jurisdiction in their respective areas of expertise such as child protective services, the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor.

Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor also qualify as certifying agencies since they have criminal investigative jurisdiction within their respective areas of expertise.
It is important to note that a certifying agency is under no legal obligation to complete this certification.

Q: How many U non-immigrant visas are given every year?
USCIS may grant no more than 10,000 U-1 nonimmigrant visas in any given fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). This does not apply to derivative family members such as spouses, children or other qualifying family members who are accompanying or following to join the principal foreign national victim.
If the cap is reached in any fiscal year before all petitions are adjudicated, USCIS will create a waiting list that will provide a mechanism by which victims cooperating with law enforcement agencies can stabilize their immigration status. Also, U nonimmigrant visa petitioners assigned to the waiting list will be given deferred action or parole while they are on the waiting list. This means they will be eligible to apply for employment authorization or travel until their petitions can be adjudicated after the start of the following fiscal year.
Note: This is not a legal advice and you need to talk to an experienced immigration attorney about your particular situation.

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