An immigrant who is a victim of a crime may be able to acquire legal status in United States by helping law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of that crime.
In 2000, Congress approved the U Nonimmigrant Status, commonly referred to as “U Visa.” When creating the new nonimmigrant category, Congress’ intent was two-fold: first, to encourage immigrants to come forward and assist law enforcement agencies in the prosecution of criminals; second, to provide humanitarian relief for victims of crime who did not have legal status in the United States.
Generally, victims who suffered a substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of certain criminal activities may qualify for U status so long as the applicant meets certain criteria:
- Applicants must have helped in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity;
- A police department, court, district attorney’s office or other law enforcement agency must certify that the immigrant was helpful in either the investigation or prosecution of the crime;
- Additionally, it is necessary to show that the applicant suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been the victim of a crime.
Among the crimes listed as qualifying criminal activity are: domestic violence, kidnapping, murder, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, trafficking, witness tampering, and any other related crimes. It also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit the crimes listed herein.
U Nonimmigrant Visa may hold their status for a four-year period. Visa holders may be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident status after three years. Family members may receive corresponding U Visa status as dependents of the U Visa holder and, similarly, acquire Legal Resident Status if and when the primary holder applies for residency.
Waiver of Inadmissibility Grounds
Congress was generous when creating the U Visa and the nonimmigrant category allows applicants to apply for a waiver of some inadmissibility grounds that generally preclude out-of-status immigrants in the United States from acquiring legal status.
Some of the grounds of inadmissibility include entering without inspection, fraud, certain criminal violations, and working without authorization. Not all grounds of inadmissibility can be waived, though, so a careful analysis is necessary before applying for U Nonimmigrant Status.