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U Visas: Helping Crime Victims

Posted on in Immigration

DuPage County immigration attorneys, u-visas and crime victimsMany people do not wind up in the United States of their own volition. Rather, they are brought here by traffickers, or come into the country to marry someone who them abuses them. If a foreign national is brought to the United States as a result of a crime, or becomes a crime victim while living in the country, he or she may have immigration recourse that can separate him or her from their abuser.

U Visas

The U visa is perhaps the most common way that victims of crimes are able to stay in the United States after their experiences. U visas are awarded to victims who have been mentally or physically abused, and have been able to aid law enforcement in the “investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.” The program began in 2000 as a way to both help law enforcement agencies crack down on crime, and to help vulnerable people get into safer situations.

There are six criteria that one must meet in order to be eligible to apply and include the following:

  • You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity (there is a list available; most violent crimes are included such as rape, domestic violence and assault);
  • You have suffered severe mental or physical harm as a result of that criminal activity;
  • You or an appropriate ‘next friend’ (someone who can care for you or guide you if you are unable to communicate) can provide law enforcement with information regarding the criminal activity;
  • The information bears fruit in some way;
  • The crime you have been victimized by and have information about occurred in the United States, and/or violated U.S. law; and
  • You are admissible to the United States under standard immigration law.

The Future for U-Visa Holders

Be advised that U visa status can only last for a total period of four years, with no extensions possible. However, there are many options available to a holder that become available to apply for before that four-year period is up. While the U visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it is a fairly flexible one. It can be applied for outside of the United States (the crime you were a victim of must break United States law, not necessarily within the country itself), and it is also possible for some to later adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR). Certain family members may also be able to obtain derivative U visas, depending on the situation—depending on the age of the U visa applicant, either one’s spouse and children or one’s spouse, children, unmarried siblings and parents may be eligible to apply.

LPR status in particular is difficult to obtain, but not impossible; a U visa holder must have been physically present in the United States for at least three full years since receiving the U visa, and a determination that it would be in the best interests of family unity needs to be reached by immigration authorities in order to move the process forward.

A Qualified Professional Can Answer Your Questions

Those who may be eligible to apply for U visas have been through enough without having to deal with the confusion and bureaucracy of the U.S. immigration process. Having an experienced attorney on your side can provide some peace of mind and help smooth out the process. The understanding and knowledgeable DuPage County immigration attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices can be a help to you in a time that can be fraught with fear and sadness. Contact our offices today to set up a free initial appointment today.

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