Written by attorney Victor Ifeanyi Okeke

The U visa; nuts and bolts

Did you know that the U visa just like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is geared towards helping victims of crime have a pathway to Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR)? Did you also know that the U visa unlike VAWA does not require that the victim be married to the perpetrator of the crime? As a matter of fact, the U visa does not care whether or not there was a domestic relationship. What if the perpetrator is neither a United States Citizen (USC) nor an LPR? The U visa still does not care.

The U visa would be helpful where the following conditions are present:

  1. Victim: you have suffered substantially by being a direct or indirect victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
  2. Information: you possess information about the qualifying criminal activity.
  3. Help: you have helped, are helping, or will help law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime
  4. Place: the crime occured in the United States or its territories or possessions. Many crimes fall into the classification of qualifying crime or criminal activity including, but not limited to rape, torture, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, manslaughter, murder and many others.

Some benefits of the U visa are:

  • Visa may be granted for upwards of 4 years in the aggregate.
  • Can apply for green card after 3 years.
  • A U visa holder is automatically entitled to employment authorizantion.
  • Qualifying family members may also be granted derivative U status and are also employment authorize.
  • Except for participation in Nazi persecution,genocide, or the commission of torture, or extra judicial killing, nearly every other ground of inadmissibility may be waived for the U visa applicant.

Two things you must know about the U visa: First, there is a yearly cap of 10000 visas. Secondly, a U visa applicant must obtain a certification ( Form I-918 Supplement B) from a certifying agency that the applicant has been helpful, is being helpful, or will be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity of which the applicant is a victim. An applicant cannot move forward without this. If you have been a victim of crime, and you are not a USC nor an LPR, consult a competent immigration attorney to discuss if the U visa may be of benefit to you.

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