Wilson Law Group is separating fact from fiction in a series of blogs to clarify some common questions and misconceptions of various topics in immigration law. The short answer to the question above is "maybe". There are several requirements for a U visa; each situation is different and needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
To be clear, being a victim of a crime alone does not qualify someone for a U visa. It is more complicated than that. Being a victim of a crime is just one of several requirements to qualify for a U visa. Before discussing the requirements, however, it is important to understand more about the U visa. It is an application for U nonimmigrant status in the United States. In other words, it is different from adjustment of status which is an application for permanent residency in the United States. If granted, U nonimmigrant status is lawful nonimmigrant status in the U.S. that is generally valid for a period of four (4) years. Someone granted U status is also granted work authorization that is valid for the same period.
An important benefit of U nonimmigrant status is that a U visa recipient can apply for permanent residency after (3) three years of having been continuously physically present in the United States in U status, assuming otherwise eligible.
USCIS may grant a U visa to someone who meets the following requirements:
1) suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of
2) having been a victim of a qualifying crime
3) that occurred in the United States, and
4) has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful to a certifying agency in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying crime.
There are important considerations for each requirement. For the first requirement, for example, USCIS can consider whether the qualifying crime worsened (exacerbated) a pre-existing condition of the applicant, such as a prior traumatic incident. Not all crimes qualify for a U visa. This is why the second requirement states that a “qualifying crime” must have occurred to the victim.
Additionally, the immigration regulations also require that the applicant be a direct victim of a qualifying crime. In certain circumstances, however, the regulations allow an indirect victim or bystander victim to apply for U visas. Wilson Law Group has filed numerous U visa applications on behalf of direct, indirect, and bystander victims with USCIS. We encourage you to consult with our office to evaluate your particular situation to determine if you qualify.
Unfortunately, there is a limit of 10,000 U visas that may be granted to principal applicants each year. If the cap is reached before all applications are adjudicated, USCIS will place any eligible principal or derivative petitions on a waiting list and give deferred action. In other words, applicants whose U visa applications are approvable but do not have visa numbers available will be placed in a waiting list and given deferred action for a certain period of time, which enables them to apply for work authorization while waiting for final U visa decisions from USCIS.
Wilson Law Group will continue to monitor the U visa cap situation closely. Feel free to contact our office by phone at our number of 612-436-7100 or via website to review and discuss if you may be eligible to apply for U status in the U.S.