Not every immigrant story is easy. There are people who come to the United States under perilous circumstances like human trafficking, and there are people who fall victim within the United States to serious crimes like domestic violence. To encourage victims to come forward to stop abuses and to assist law enforcement, Congress in 2000 authorized a benefit called U visas.
To be eligible for a U visa, you must be able to show that you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse during a crime that violated the laws of the United States (including some crimes that took place outside the country). You must also have provided help to law enforcement or another government agency responsible for prosecuting or investigating the crime. The crime must be on a list of qualifying crimes maintained by the federal government, which includes many violent or sex crimes.
A U visa lets you live legally in the United States for four years, and it carries substantial benefits. Although it is a nonimmigrant visa—meaning that it is not designed for people who want to live in the U.S. permanently—holders are eligible to apply for a green card (lawful permanent residency) after three years. In addition, once a U visa is approved, you may apply for derivative visas for immediate family members—your spouse and children if you’re 21 or older, or your spouse, children, parents and unmarried minor siblings if you are under 21.
Applying for a U visa can be emotionally difficult, because it requires you to provide a personal statement about the crime and documentation about your victimization. It also requires you to have someone from the government agency that handled the investigation or prosecution of the crime certify that you were helpful. That is in addition to the application forms and other paperwork, which requires extensive documentation (and if you’re outside the United States when you apply, an interview at a U.S. consulate). Our attorneys can provide expert guidance as you write your statement and interact with government agencies, helping you make a strong case to stay in the United States.
If you were a victim of a crime and you would like to learn more about applying for a U visa, call the Ojala-Barbour Law Firm today. Based in St. Paul, we serve immigrants and their families throughout Minnesota. You can send us a message online or call (651) 214-6284 today.