U Visa Immigration Lawyer Chicago
U visa is a very powerful immigration category for crime victims and family members inside and outside the United States. It is an nonimmigrant status created by Congress for noncitizens who have been the victims of certain qualifying crimes. Congress created this special visa category with the passing of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislative initiative was enacted to encourage victims to report crimes and contribute to investigations and prosecutions regardless of immigration status.
There are 10,000 U visa numbers available in this category per year. Although certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa but do not count against the annual cap. If you are an undocumented immigrant, an U visa may be an option as it provides a pathway to a green card.
Who can file U Visa?
U Visa is a form of humanitarian relief for victims of certain crimes. It is an ideal immigration option if you are or were a victim of certain crime and willing to cooperate with the police or court. U visa is specifically for undocumented immigrants who are otherwise inadmissible such as entering the United States without inspection, false claims to US Citizenship, crimes of moral turpitude, misrepresentation issues, among other serious immigration violations. Under normal circumstances, these immigration violations are difficult to overcome but if you are qualified for U visa, they can be waived or forgiven.
U Visa Qualifying Crimes
To qualify for a U visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be the victim of one or more criminal activities. These criminal activities include but not limited to:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other Related Crimes*
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are largely similar. Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime;
- The crime occurred in the United States or the territories and possessions of the United States, or violated U.S. laws;
- Have information about the crime;
- Have been or you are likely to be helpful in assisting law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of said crime; and
- Eligible to apply for entry into the United States, or to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.
U Visa Frequently Asked Questions
U Visa can lead to permanent residency (“green card”). That is why it is such as powerful immigration relief for victims of crimes in the United States. By applying for a U visa, your previous immigration and criminal violations (i.e. crossing the border illegally) would often be forgiven as well.
There is no statute of limitations regarding the time frame in which the crime had occurred. Federal legislation specifically provides that victims may be eligible for a U-Visa based on helping past investigations, this includes submissions for victims in closed cases.
In the case that a child is a victim, parents or unmarried siblings under the age of 18 can apply as “indirect victims”. They must be willing to provide assistance to law enforcement when the principal victim is too young to do so. It’s also important to consider that victims do not need to be present in the U.S. in order to be eligible for the U visa and may even apply outside the United States.
If you are eligible for a U visa, there are many benefits that you can enjoy once you obtain a U visa status. Upon approval of your U visa, you will be able to work and live in the United States legally. After 3 years of being in a U visa status, you can apply for permanent residence (green card).
Another benefit of this special non-immigrant visa is that it grants temporary status to eligible victims of certain crimes, if the victim cooperates with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
Finally, U visas may include status for your spouse and child if you are over 21 years old, and can also include your parents if you are under 21.
U Visa Waiting List
Congress set a limit of 10,000 U visas that can be granted for principal petitioners each year (this number does not include derivative family members).
If the cap is reached, there is a waitlist. Petitioners on the waitlist are granted deferred action, at which point they can apply for work authorization. As of June 2021, there is now a Bona Fide Determination process (BFD), meant to accelerate the rate at which Petitioners can have access to deferred action and work authorization.
There are currently no processing times published for the BFD or U visa processes. U visas take a very long time due to the visa cap and there are over 276,000 pending petitions (based on end of the third quarter of the 2021 fiscal year). USCIS intends to publish processing times again in 2022 once there has been sufficient time to track BFD processing.
U Visa Requirements
When filing for a U visa, it is necessary to supply a signed certification from an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency. The official must confirm that you are indeed the victim of a crime, and that you have been, you are being or you are likely to be cooperating with the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
In addition, you will provide a personal statement describing the crime and any additional evidence available to support each eligibility requirement.
After three years on U visa status, you will be eligible to apply for permanent residence (a “green card”), provided that you have had continuous presence in the U.S. for at least 3 years since admission, have not left the U.S. for more than 90 days, and have complied with reasonable requests from law enforcement.
U Visa Process and Timeline
To begin the U-Visa process, the non-citizen must first obtain a U-Visa Certification proving that he/she is the victim of a qualifying crime and that he/she is willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. once a U visa certificate is certified, it is only valid for 6 months from the date of certification by the qualifying law enforcement agency. Hence, the non-citizen must file a petition for U non-immigrant status within 6 months. If the non-citizen has any inadmissibility issues, a separate waiver should be filed concurrently with the initial U-Visa petition. Due to the complexities of a U-Visa petition, it is highly advised that non-citizens seek legal representation for assistance.
Hire an experienced Chicago U Visa Immigration Attorney
If you have questions regarding U nonimmigrant status, contact an experienced Chicago Immigration lawyer to discuss your case. The list of qualifying crimes is not exhaustive, as some crimes will still quality that are substantially similar. Although U visas involve a long process, they are an important option for victims of qualifying crimes in their immigration cases. We have successfully assisted numerous U Visa victims to legally live in the U.S. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation. Our Chicago U visa lawyers speak Spanish, Chinese, French, Portuguese and Italian.