JESSE J. BAÑUELOS, A LOS ANGELES IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY
U VISAS FOR VICTIMS OF CERTAIN CRIMES
The U visa program was established for undocumented aliens who have suffered physical or mental abuse, or injury as a result of the criminal acts of others, and who are collaborating, have collaborated, or are likely to collaborate, with governmental authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the crime against the parties who were responsible for those crimes. Many undocumented aliens who are the victims of crimes, out of fear of deportation, prefer to remain silent. The purpose of the U visa program is to motivate those victims to report those crimes to the appropriate authorities.
REQUIREMENTS OF A U VISA
1. The applicant must have suffered physical or mental abuse, or injury as a result of certain criminal activity by another person, such as rape, torture, human trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, kidnapping, blackmail, murder, slave trade, involuntary servitude, felonious assault, robbery, etc.;
2. The date of the incident doesn’t matter; it doesn’t matter whether it occurred today, or 10, 20 years ago;
3. The injury does not have to be physical. For example, the emotional trauma that someone suffers when one is robbed through the use of threats, or at gunpoint, etc., could be sufficient;
4. The crime must have violated the laws of the US, and must have occurred in the US;
5. The applicant–or in the case of an applicant child under 16, the child’s parent or guardian–has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the criminal investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity that caused the applicant’s injury;
6. The local police, or some other government agency in the US, such as a district attorney’s office, the FBI, a county’s department of social services, etc., prepared a report regarding the incident;
7. It’s not necessary for the perpetrator of the crime to be convicted of a crime. In fact, he doesn’t even have to be arrested. If the victim meets all the other requirements, it is possible for a crime victim to be eligible for a U visa, even if the perpertrator were never found; and
8. The applicant does not need to be living in the US when he/she applies for a U visa.
BENEFITS OF A U VISA
1. a work permit once the U visa petition is approved;
2. protection from deportation/removal while the petition for a U visa is pending, even if the applicant is in deportation/removal proceedings, or has a deportation/removal order pending against him;
3. waivers of an applicant’s violations of immigration laws, such as immigration fraud, unlawful presence in the US, deportations, many types of criminal convictions, whether they are felonies or misdemeanors, etc., that the INS/USCIS would usually not forgive under any other program; and
4. if after his application is approved, the applicant maintains continuous residence in the US for at least three years, he will be eligible for a green card.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY FOR A U VISA?
1. In addition to the principal applicant (the principal victim), the victim’s spouse [NOTE: the marital relationship must have been formalized by the time the application for a U visa is filed. For example, the victim and his/her spouse may get married a day before the application is filed], and the victim’s children (under 21) may be included in his application. Victims under the age of 21, may also request U-visas for their parents and unmarried siblings (under age 18). A sibling’s age is determined as of the date when the sibling’s U-visa application is filed;
2. Indirect victims of criminal activity. Certain family members can apply for U visas as indirect victims when the primary victim died due to murder or manslaughter or was rendered incompetent or incapacitated and therefore cannot help the authorities with the criminal investigation. Indirect victims still need to establish that they meet the other eligibility requirements for U-visa status; that they have been helpful, are being helpful, or will be helpful in the investigation of the crime; they suffered substantial harm as a result of the crime. USCIS considers the age of the victim at the time of the crime to determine who is eligible as an indirect victim. For crime victims who are age 21 or older, their spouse, as well as their children under 21 years of age, may be considered indirect victims. For victims under age 21, their parents and unmarried siblings under 18 can be considered indirect victims; and
3. Bystanders. Under limited circumstances bystanders may qualify as U-visa victims. When a bystander has suffered an unusually direct injury as the result of a qualifying crime (i.e., suffering a miscarriage after witnessing a criminal activity), the bystander may be eligible for a U-visa.
TO DO IT RIGHT, IT IS BEST TO APPLY FOR A U VISA WITH THE HELP OF AN ATTORNEY
The process of applying for a U visa is very complicated. For these reasons, if you are a victim of a crime, and you wish to apply for this benefit, you will need the help of an experienced immigration attorney, such as Mr. Bañuelos. Because he is hardworking and tenacious, Mr. Bañuelos has been successfully resolving difficult immigration problems, and has been winning difficult deportation and removal cases for over 20 years.