Victim of a Crime? You May Be Entitled to a Green Card through a U-Visa.

You may be eligible to receive a U-visa when:

1.You were a victim of a crime that violated U.S law
2.You suffered physical or mental damages or abuse as a result of a crime
3.You were helpful to the law enforcement in providing information about the crime or are likely to be helpful in the future
4.The Law Enforcement agency involved in investigating the crime that you complained about signed a Certification confirming that you are a victim and that you cooperated with law enforcement by providing information about the crime

How does a U-visa affect my status in the United States?
After your U-visa application is filed with the USCIS, you are allowed to stay in the United States while your U-visa application is being reviewed regardless of your immigration status in the United States and regardless of how you entered the United States until a decision is made on your U-visa. However, if you entered the U.S. illegally, you would need to apply for a special waiver.

What kind of information about the crime is sufficient?
Generally, whatever information that may be needed to reasonably start an investigation would be sufficient. For example, if a police report is filed, generally, this may be the start of your U-visa case.

What if the perpetrators are not found, or are not persecuted or are not found guilty?
Your U-visa does not depend on the actions of the law enforcement in locating or prosecuting the criminals. It only depends on whether or not the investigation starts. If the police report or other similar document is filed, this is usually sufficient.

What kind of crimes would qualify for a U-visa?
Generally, any crime that violates the law of the state where the crime occurred, or Federal law qualifies. Also, not all crimes are physical. Some crimes involve threats or fraud. For example, impersonating a lawyer or performing legal work without a license is often a crime. Some of these lawyer impersonators are convicted and sent to jail. Many immigrants fall victim to such unlicensed impersonators.

What if I am in a removal (deportation) proceeding?
The U-visa application actually serves as a defence to removal (deportation). Therefore, you may file for a U-visa regardless of the immigration court proceedings.

About the crimes that might make someone eligible for a U visa.
Even thought it is horrible to be a victim of any crime, the U visas are given to victims of certain crimes that are specifically mentioned in the law.

First and the most importantly, it is necessary that the crime was committed in the United States, including Native American tribal lands and military installations, or in one of its other Territories or that it violates the law of the US.

The other thing that is important to know is that different states can have different names for the same criminal conduct. For example, in some states there is a crime that is called assault, which is when you are physically attacked and in other states, it is possible that the same crime is called battery. Then, the most important thing that has to be considered is that the criminal activity is similar to that type of crime in terms of the legal elements of the crimes mentioned in the law, even if the name is different.

It is possible that you will need an immigration lawyer to help you decide if the crime of which you were a victim can qualify you for a U visa.

The crime that can make you eligible for a U visa are:
domestic violence
sexual assault
abusive sexual contact
sexual exploitation
female genital mutilation
being held hostage
making you pay a debt with work (peonage)
involuntary servitude
slave trade
unlawful criminal
false imprisonment
fraud in foreign labor contracting
felonious assault
witness tampering
obstruction of justice
attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above-mentioned crimes.

It is necessary that the crime was committed in the United States or in violation of the laws of the United States.

Also, you need to have information of the criminal activity and be willing to give that information to the police, the district attorney, or any of the agencies that we have mentioned.

And you must be willing to cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of the crime, regardless of the outcome of the case. To request a U visa, it is a requirement to have a certification from a law enforcement agency.

This certification declares that you helped, are helping or will help the authorities that investigate or prosecute the criminal activity.

This certification is very important, without it, you cannot be eligible for a U visa, regardless of the crime committed against you. It is also important to note that if the victim of the crime that files for the visa is less than 16 years of age, the certification can say that the father, mother, guardian of next friend has been helpful, is helpful, or is likely to be helpful.

A next friend is generally someone who participates in a legal proceeding to speak on behalf of the victim. But the next friend does not request the U visa status. For example, if my niece, who is 14 years old, was the victim of a qualifying crime, and I participated in the criminal case against the offender, then I can help her to comply with the requirement of helping the authorities so she can qualify for the U visa. However, I will not be able to request a U visa because I do not have a qualifying relationship with her to be considered as an indirect victim. But, if instead of being my niece, it was my 14-year-old daughter, and I help the authorities with her case then it might be possible for me to apply for the U visa as an indirect victim. Because we do have a qualifying relationship, if I can comply with the rest of the requirements for the visa as an indirect victim, then I will need the certification to be in my name.

To obtain the certification, from the moment you start cooperating with authorities, you will have to continue that cooperation without refusing or failing to provide the information and assistance if it is requested in a reasonable manner.

The certification also confirms that you were the victim of one of the qualifying crimes for the U visa and that you have provided or were willing to provide information to them. Generally, it is the police department or the district attorney’s office who signs the certification for a U-visa, but it is not limited to those authorities.

The complete list of who can sign a certification is:
federal, state, or local police agencies,
district attorneys,
judges or other authorities responsible for the investigation or prosecution of qualifying criminal activity.

This includes agencies with the authority to investigate criminal activity in their own areas like Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, among others.

If you are involved in a case with one of these agencies that has to do with one of the qualifying crimes, it is possible that the process to get the certification might be different. Generally, the certifications are signed by person in charge of the agency, or a person designated to sign the certifications.

you should look for help from a lawyer who can help you navigate this process. If you cannot find legal help, it is possible that local victim service organization can help you find information on how you can obtain the certification from authorities for your case.

A principal applicant is the person who applies for a U visa.

A derivative refers to certain family members who can also receive legal status through the principal applicant. Because the family member’s status is derived from the principal applicant’s status, the law refers to the family member as a derivative under immigration laws.

Who you can include as derivative family members will depend on their age at the time when the application is filed.

Derivatives do not have to meet all of the eligibility criteria as the principal applicant does. For example, they do not have to prove they have suffered substantial damage of that they are willing to cooperate with the investigation of the prosecution of the crime. However, they do have to prove that they are admissible or that they are eligible for a waiver if they are inadmissible.

As a principal applicant, you can file a petition for your derivative family members when you file for U visa status, or later on.

If you are 21 years of age or older when you file for your U visa, the following family members can qualify for their visa U status as derivatives: your husband or wife and/or your unmarried children who are less than 21 years old.

If you are 21 years of age or younger when you file for your U visa, then the following family members can qualify for U visa status as derivatives: your husband or wife, your unmarried children who are less than 21 years old, your parents, and/or your unmarried siblings who are under age 18.
The age of the principal applicant and derivative family members is determined as of the date in which the application for the U visa is filed. As a principal applicant, you will have to prove that your derivative family member is indeed your family member. Usually, you will provide documents like marriage and birth certificates. Please note that if your family member was the person who committed the crime against you, then she/he will not be eligible for U visa status as a derivative. U visa principal applicants can include derivatives that currently live in the United States or outside of the country. If the application for derivative family members is granted and they live in the US, then they will receive a work permit when they are approved.

If they are outside of the US, they can eventually request to come inti the US with the U visa and apply for a work permit when they are here.

It is possible that this process will take a long time.