A “U” Visa is a visa set aside for victims of certain crimes, and their immediate family, who have been the victim of a serious crime while in the United States and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of the crime. If a person is approved for a “U” Visa, it provides the victim with:
- temporary immigration status, including work authorization, for the victim and qualifying family members.
- The possibility of lawful permanent resident status.
Ultimately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines if a person is eligible, not law enforcement. However, law enforcement provides the necessary information to USCIS so they can determine if a person is eligible for a “U” Visa. A person can be eligible for a “U” Visa if they are:
- A victim of a serious crime,
- have information about the crime or criminal activity,
- is, was, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation of a serious crime or the prosecution of the person who committed a serious crime.
In order to qualify for a “U” Visa, the victim must submit a signed certification from a law enforcement official. The certification is called a USCIS Form I-918, Supplement B, “U” Nonimmigrant Status Certification. The person who committed the crime does not have to have legal status or have any relation to the victim.
There are a variety of serious crimes that qualify for a “U” Visa which includes, but is not limited to: abusive sexual contact, being held hostage, domestic violence, felonious assault, sexual assault, extortion, and stalking. Attempting to or planning to commit a serious crime may also be considered qualifying criminal activity.
Any Federal, state, or local law enforcement is eligible to complete Form I-918, Supplement B. The certification must be signed by any person who is specifically designated by the head of agency to sign or a federal, state, or local judge. The certification must be submitted by the “U” Visa applicant themselves; the certifying agency cannot submit it for the applicant.
A law enforcement authority can sign a certification at any time. They can sign even after a case is over, regardless of the outcome of the case (a conviction prosecution, or arrest are not necessary), and even if the perpetrator is acquitted or convicted of a different crime. It is important to note that law enforcement may withdraw the certification if the victims stops cooperating.
Do not be afraid of going to law enforcement if you have been the victim of a serious crime.
It is important that “U” Visa applicants are aware that simply receiving the certification does not grant any immigration benefit. It is ultimately up to USCIS if a person is eligible for a “U” Visa. USCIS also conducts a thorough background check of each “U” Visa petitioner.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a serious crime and is interested in seeking a “U” Visa, do not hesitate to call our offices at (213) 489-5202 for a consultation. Together we will find the way.