Visa U: Access to Justice

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Visa U: Access to Justice

Crime can affect anyone, regardless of status or nationality. However, obtaining justice has historically been particularly tricky for immigrants, who often suffer in silence. The visa U, or U visa, was introduced in 2000 to address this issue, providing a clear and supportive path to justice for immigrant crime victims. This guide will explore how the visa U works and what the application process entails and also how to get your u visa.

If you’ve already applied for your Visa U and are waiting on your EAD and BFD, we’ll also tell you about a service from Pro Se Pro that’s helped thousands of applicants get their work permit and bona fide determination in under 60 days.

Introduction to Visa U

The visa U is a special type of nonimmigrant visa introduced in 2000. Its purpose is to help victims of crimes to get the protection, support, and justice they deserve, without fear of deportation or any other punishment or penalty. It’s available for all victims of certain crimes who are willing to assist the authorities with their investigations and prosecutions of the perpetrators.

Before the visa U was introduced, many immigrants failed to report crimes, fearing for their own safety and status. This led to countless crimes going unpunished, and countless criminals never being brought to justice. Fortunately, the introduction of the visa U changed all of that. It made justice easier and more accessible for victims, giving them the confidence and support they need to speak to the authorities.

As well as being a critical legal provision for immigrant victims, the U visa offers various additional benefits. Holders can enjoy complete protection against deportation, in addition to work permits and Social Security numbers. It’s even possible to bring family members into the country with the aid of derivative U visas, and holders can eventually pursue lawful permanent residency.

Another added bonus is you and your family can get your work permit while you wait on your application to be approved. Pro Se Pro is a company that has already helped thousands of Visa U applicants get their work permits in under 60 days.

Eligibility Criteria for Visa U

Like any other visa, the U visa has a specific set of qualification criteria that applicants need to meet. Fortunately, the u visa process and criteria are relatively easy to understand. All applicants must:

  • Have been a victim of one or more of the crimes featured on the official qualifying list (see below) while in the United States.
  • Have suffered notable levels of either physical or mental harm (or both) as a result of the crime in question.
  • Have information about the nature of the crime or the people behind it that you can share with the authorities to aid in their investigations.
  • Have helped or are willing to help law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of the crime in question.
  • Be eligible for admission to the United States. However, even if you’re not eligible, you may still be able to apply for a waiver, if your case is serious enough.

Most importantly, applicants will also need to obtain a certification from a law enforcement agency. The certification should prove that the person in question was a victim of a crime featured on the official qualifying list. It also needs to confirm that the crime took place in the U.S. and that the applicant has information about the crime and was or is willing to help the authorities.

Note that even applicants who are under the age of 16 or unable to provide direct assistance to law enforcement due to a disability or condition may still receive a visa U. A parent, guardian, or even your legal representative can share information and support to law enforcement on your behalf.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

As stated above, there’s an official list of crimes that are covered by the visa U. The list is not exhaustive, and certain kinds of crimes are not included. However, many major crimes feature on the list related to U visa news. Here it is in full:

  • Rape
  • Torture
  • Domestic violence
  • Trafficking
  • Incest
  • Sexual assault
  • Abusive sexual contact
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Stalking
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Peonage (forced to work to pay off a debt)
  • Involuntary servitude
  • Being held hostage
  • Kidnapping
  • Abduction
  • Slave trade
  • Unlawful criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Blackmail
  • Extortion
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Felonious assault
  • Witness tampering
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Perjury
  • Fraud in foreign labor contracting
  • Assault with a weapon

Note that being a victim of one or more of the above crimes does not automatically qualify someone for a Visa U. All of the other eligibility criteria listed above also need to be met, including the certification from a law enforcement agency. If any of the criteria are not met, it can be much harder or even impossible for the applicant to acquire a U visa.

Certification by Law Enforcement

As mentioned above, it’s crucial for all applicants to obtain a certification from law enforcement to confirm their status as victims. The official name for the certification in question is Form I-98 Supplement B. It can be provided by a range of agencies and officials, including:

  • Law enforcement agencies at local, state, or federal level
  • Prosecutors
  • Judges
  • Other authorities that are involved in the investigation or prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime, which could include the likes of Child Protective Services, depending on the nature of the crime.

Form I-98 Supplement B has to have been executed within six months of the time of filing for your visa U. It also has to be signed by an authorized office or agent. The form itself will detail various pieces of information about the applicant and their situation. This includes the name and date of birth of the victim, the type of crime they were a victim of, and a section about the helpfulness of the victim.

When it comes to “helpfulness of the victim,” this term is relatively broad. A range of acts, such as calling the police after the crime, reporting it to the authorities, filing charges against the perpetrators, or being willing to go to court and testify are all signs of helpfulness. By demonstrating a willingness to aid the authorities in their investigations, the victim should have a strong chance of securing their visa U.

Navigating the U Visa Application Process

As with any visa, it’s absolutely crucial for applicants to understand every step of the application process. The process needs to be followed extremely carefully, with all forms filled out and all relevant documentation provided to support the application. If anything is missed or left out, the application can be delayed or even rejected.

Essentially, the process consists of filling out a range of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forms, as well as providing plenty of supplementary documentation to support your application. All forms and documents are then sent to the USCIS. After that stage, you simply have to wait for them to review your case and make a decision.

The first step is to fill out Form I-918, otherwise known as the Application for U Nonimmigrant Status. This form asks for a lot of information about the applicant, from basic details like name, address, and date of birth to passport details, dates and locations of U.S. entries for the last five years, and details of spouses and children.

In addition to Form I-918, applicants also need to provide the aforementioned Form I-918 Supplement B. This needs to be obtained and signed by a law enforcement agency. There are also additional USCIS forms you may wish to include with your application, depending on your status. This includes Form I-192, which is a waiver for those who are ineligible for admission to the U.S.

Along with the USCIS forms, applicants also need to provide a signed personal statement that effectively details the nature of the crime they were victims of, the abuse they suffered, and how they have helped the authorities. The personal statement is a crucial piece of supporting documentation for the U visa application. It gives you the chance to tell your story in your own words.

Beyond the forms and statements, various other pieces of supporting evidence should also be obtained and provided to USCIS. This can include any documents that help to show you have been a victim of crime, suffered abuse, and have cooperated with law enforcement and justice agencies in their investigations.

There are lots of possible documents which could be included in this section, such as:

  • Medical records to demonstrate the signs of physical or mental abuse.
  • Photographs of injuries or damages, supported with affidavits.
  • Statements or declarations from witnesses to the crime or people with information about the crime and the abuse you suffered, like shelter workers or counselors.
  • Police reports and other law enforcement documents, like criminal court records or complaints.
  • Records from shelters to show that you sought help from them.

The more documentation you can provide to support your application, the stronger it should be. USCIS generally likes to see as much supporting evidence as possible, especially from differing systems, agencies, and authorities. It’s particularly important to provide lots of proof that you were a victim and suffered real abuse from the crime.

The Bona Fide Determination and Its Impact

While the introduction of the U visa helped to provide much-needed support to immigrant victims, the process of obtaining the visa previously took a long time. To address this, the USCIS introduced the U Visa Bona Fide Determination policy. This was designed to help victims get support more quickly, with less waiting time before they can enjoy working rights and protection against deportation.

Thanks to this policy, all U visa applicants are reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS carries out background checks on the applicants and decides if their applications are complete and made in good faith. If so, the application is granted “Bona Fide” status and the applicant receives “Deferred Action for U Visa.”

“Deferred Action for U Visa” essentially gives the applicant the benefits of a U visa temporarily, while their visa application is reviewed. That means that they won’t have to worry about being deported. In addition, they can obtain work authorization in the U.S., get married, and travel outside the U.S. too. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get your U visa, but it makes the application process easier.

If you are a Visa U applicant who hasn’t received your bona fide determination or work permit, contact Pro Se Pro to join thousands of applicants who’ve received their EAD and BFD in an average of 43 days.

Including Family Members in the Application

U visa applicants should also be aware that certain members of their family, such as their spouse or children, may also be able to apply for a derivative U visa. This covers family members who were not victims of the crime. The derivative U visas provide the same rights for holders to live and work in the United States and eventually apply for lawful permanent residency (green cards).

Here’s the full breakdown of U Visas:

  • U-1: The primary type of U visa, issued to crime victims
  • U-2: Given to spouses of U-1 holders
  • U-3: Given to children of U-1 holders
  • U-4: Given to parents of U-1 holders who are both unmarried and under the age of 21
  • U-5: Given to minor siblings of U-1 holders who are both unmarried and under the age of 21

As you can see from this list, the age of the U-1 applicant will determine which family members they are allowed to apply in conjunction with. If the crime victim is over the age of 21, their spouse and children may also apply for U visas. If they’re below 21, parents and minor siblings, as well as any spouses and children, may also apply for derivative U visas.

Note that eligible family members can apply for their derivative U visas at the same time as the crime victim applies for theirs. However, the derivative visas will not be approved until the victim has had their U-1 visa approved. If the U-1 is not approved, no derivative visas will be issued. In other words, it all depends on the primary (U-1) application.

The application process is also different for family members. For each one, you’ll have to provide a copy of the applicant’s Form I-918 and Supplement B, as well as complete Form I-918 Supplement A, or Petition for Qualified Relative of U-1 Beneficiary. Proof of the relationship to the applicant is also needed, like birth certificates or marriage certificates.

After the Application: What Comes Next?

After submitting your application and all relevant documents, it’s simply a question of waiting for USCIS to review it and make a decision. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the previous section, this isn’t usually a rapid process. Indeed, it often takes up to five years for applicants to have their applications either approved or rejected.

The reason for this delay is that the USCIS currently only issues 10,000 U visas per year. Given that there are so many applications, this creates a backlog. All pending applications are placed on a waiting list. Fortunately, the Bona Fide Determination helps to grant protections and other benefits to applicants while they wait.

While you wait, you can keep up to date with the latest USCIS processing times via its website. You can also check on your immigration case status via an online tool. You’ll simply need to enter the 13-digit receipt number from your application or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center. Your legal representative can also help you stay up to date and use various means to speed up your case.

From U Visa to Lawful Permanent Residency

One of the big benefits of the visa U is that holders become eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents after three years. However, you’ll need to meet certain criteria to successfully obtain residency, including:

  • You have resided in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since obtaining the U visa. That means you can’t have left the U.S. for either 90 days in a row or a total of 180 days over the three-year period.
  • You continued to comply with any requests from law enforcement for assistance.
  • Your presence in the U.S. is justified on humanitarian grounds. This is judged on a case-by-case basis.

Again, after filing the necessary forms and documents, you’ll have to wait for USCIS to make a decision. That can take a couple more years, but USCIS will extend your U visa accordingly until a decision is made. You may also have to apply for or renew your work permit, as well as relevant waivers for inadmissibility.

Legal Resources and Support for U Visa Applicants

Given the complexity of the U visa application process, it’s strongly recommended applicants seek legal assistance. Immigration attorneys can guide applicants through the process, helping to secure relevant documents and fill out the USCIS forms correctly. Various other organizations are also ready to help, like non-profits and victim support groups. Seek help to give your application the best chance of success and avoid unwanted delays and stress.

The U Visa – A Crucial Tool for Justice

The U visa is an invaluable tool for any immigrant who has found themselves becoming or has already been a victim of criminal activity. It provides the support, care, and rights that victims need to feel comfortable and continue to live their lives to the fullest, while also seeking justice and assisting law enforcement. All victims should strongly consider making an application, and using this guide as a basis to begin, but remember to also seek out professional legal advice to support your claim.

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