U Visa for Victims of Abuse in the United States

Have you been a victim of abuse in the United States? In this article you will be able to find out how to obtain a U Visa and legal status.

The U Visa has been available in the United States since 2000. The purpose of this visa is to allow US authorities to help victims of physical or psychological abuse during criminal investigations. What does “physical or psychological” abuse mean? Who exactly can benefit from this visa? How can you apply for it?

Those who have been victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, etc. can apply for a U Visa.  This visa is, basically, a service for foreign citizens who have become victims of these kinds of abuse. This document was approved 19 years ago by the United States Congress through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

The main goal of this visa is to grant a work permit, legal residence in the US, and a path for permanent residence (or Green Card) to victims of abuse. 

Being in a foreign country can be a terrifying experience for many people. The fact that this kind of visa is available is quite a relief, particularly if you are a victim of such a complex problem as this. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of how this process works before you request it.

What kind of actions are considered “abuse”?

In the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you can find a list of actions that are deemed abuse by government authorities and permit a person to benefit from a U Visa.

Among those actions are: stalking, sexual assault with a weapon, any kind of sexual aggression, sexual exploitation, murder, illegal detention, extortion, and labor exploitation caused to foreign citizens.

In addition, practices such as female genital mutilation, obstruction of justice, and incest also qualify. As is the case of homicide, incest, prostitution, kidnapping, perjury, torture, slavery, domestic violence, and involuntary servitude. 

American immigration authorities try to help foreign citizens who have been victims of such abuse during a corresponding criminal case. By means of this visa you can receive support and it is guaranteed that your case is taken to higher courts even though you are a foreigner.

You have to keep in mind that in most cases, being a foreigner puts you in very vulnerable situations, such as the ones mentioned above, which are not often solved by the authorities in foreign nations because of the absence of the necessary legal measures. For instance, a resource such as the U Visa helps immigrants greatly.

Who is eligible for the non-immigrant U Visa? 

  • Victims of a qualifying criminal act. 
  • Those who have faced physical or psychological abuse in a criminal offence. 
  • Those who have information about qualifying criminal activity. In the case of minors under 16 years of age, with a condition that may keep him from providing information, his legal guardian can act on his or her behalf. 
  • Victims of any type of abuse that is against United States law. 
  • People who are eligible to be admitted in the country. Otherwise, they need to apply through the I-192 form(formulario I – 192 https://www.uscis.gov/es/formularios/i-192). You can only use this form to enter the United States temporarily if you are considered an inadmissible immigrant, and if you have documents you need to prove that you can benefit from a U Visa. 

The last resource listed above is temporary aid granted by immigration authorities to those who, after being victims of abuse (as in the case of human trafficking), can stay in the country for up to 4 years. This only applies if these victims have cooperated with the authorities in the corresponding investigation.

Such immigration status can also be requested by relatives of the victims of the crime. They can get benefits like the possibility of obtaining a work permit.

T Status is granted when it has been demonstrated that a minor (under 18) has been treated harshly, which could be sexual, meaning, who has been forced into prostitution. Or when a person is victim of forced labor (slavery).

“Those who have been victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, etc. can apply for a U Visa.”

Who grants or denies a U Visa application?

The USCIS is the immigration institution that grants or denies a U Visa. It is not a necessary to have some kind of legal status to benefit from this process, but you do need to have an official authorization of an official, which means that you need to at least have a visa.

Since you do not need to have legal status, this visa can help undocumented immigrants. We have had many clients who have successfully obtained a U Visa is spite of the difficulties they have faced. We strongly recommend that you consult with an immigration lawyer so your chances of success increase.

The good thing about this application being approved is that the applicant (who is most likely with an irregular legal status in the United States) could get the work permit he or she needs. Likewise, if the person has “good moral fiber”, is financially independent after paying taxes, and after 3 years has the option of applying for legal permanent residence in the Unites States.

How many immigrants have received threats? How many hide these kinds of abuse? Too many. Being aware of immigration law is fundamental for every immigrant in order to protect him or herself once he or she decides to move to another country, otherwise, he or she will continue being a victim of abuse and fraud.

The fact that a person leaves the country does not mean that he or she has to put up with abuse or or discrimination. That is why we have rights which we can only use if we know them.

The rights of American citizens being above those of immigrants is something that has been discussed at length. Now, what if an immigrant is physically assaulted by an American citizen? Does that influence a U Visa being approved.

It changes nothing, since this is a benefit that seeks to help those who have been victims of abuse, which can happen regardless of the legal status of the assailant. This means that even if the aggressor is an American citizen, the immigrant victim has the right to request a U Visa.

What can you do if you need to send an application? 

First of all, you need to fill in the I-918 form, which must have the signature of the official who has approved the applicant to give the necessary information to help him with the criminal case.

If there is any problem with your application, the applicant has the option of using the I-192 form, the Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-immigrant.

Besides, you should provide a letter in which you describe the criminal act, and list all of the necessary eligibility requirements. You can do all of this while in the United States.

If the applicant is in another country, he or she has the opportunity of applying as well. The applicant will need to turn the required forms for the U Visa, and continue the application normally.

If your application is approved, the person would have to continue with the consular process, since this will allow you to enter the United States. In order to do that, you will need to have an interview in the American consulate in the country you are applying from.

Who can fill a petition for your eligible relatives? In the case of a person under 21 years of age, the petition can be made by children, parents, partner, and single relatives not older than 18. If the person making the petition is older than 21, he or she can only include his/her spouse and children.

This process can be made through the I-918 firm, which is part of the Supplement A for Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status for U-1 Nonimmigrant Immediate Relative.

How many visas are granted? 

The number of U Visas granted every year is 10,000, without taking into account the eligible family petitions. If the maximum number of petitions is reached, USCIS will create a list to deal with the pending applications.

It is interesting to note that the Employment Authorization Document is obtained automatically, there is no need to meet the requirements from the Employment Authorization Application. What about the relatives? They get the opportunity to work thanks to their nonimmigrant status.  

It is very important to keep in mind that because of the immigration policy of the Trump administration, U Visa applications have decreased in the last few years. This situation has been recognized and denounced by immigration lawyers and other activists.

What has the American government to stop U Visa issuing? Basically, the government has made decisions that have raised the cost of the U Visa, and this has also increased deportations of those applicants whose petition has been denied. The statistics show that immigration judges no longer grant the same number of U Visas, just like some years ago.

USCIS statistics show that the cases have decreased. There were 62,990 applications in 2017, and 58,991 in 2018, which proves that there is truly a policy in place directed to limit the issuing of U Visas. Consequently, immigrants start to see their hope to stay in the United States legally through process such as the U Visa vanish.

The U Visa Today

Although the U Visa comes with many benefits, there is a long way that needs to be walked through in order to obtain the U Visa, and this can be challenging for many. It can take up to 4 years or even more. This is the reality of those who are victims of abuse and apply for the U Visa to receive answers immediately. 

The first issue is that, just as we mentioned before, USCIS only grants 10,000 U Visas every year, and usually, that limit is way too low for the amount of applicants there are. That is why it can take so long to be accepted. 

By doing this, the status becomes in what USCIS calls “deferred action”. What does this mean? It means that even though the status of a person is not legal, that “deferred action” makes it known whether the person is still in the country and whether he or she is eligible for a 2-year work permit.

Every day, the list grows more and more, while other policies are being used to limit the entrance of immigrants to the country. So, what will happen with the U Visa in the future? Is it going to continue being reduced?

Currently, there are around 234,000 people who, after suffering some kind of abuse, wait for a U Visa in the United States. If the limit is of about 10,000, then it is obvious that it is not so easy to get the U Visa.

Therefore, it will be of much help having an immigration lawyer who is an expert in this kind of cases. First, an attorney can help you identify whether you can in fact benefit from the U Visa. Second, your process will be taken care of, in the fastest way possible.

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If you or someone you know needs help with immigration procedures, or if you are a victim of the judicial system, we can help you. Keep in mind:

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