“U” Visas for Crime Victims
“U” status is available for victims of certain types of crimes WHO REPORT THE CRIME AND COOPERATE WITH AUTHORITIES in the investigation and prosecution, if any. This special “U” status is available, even if the victim or his immediate family members (spouse and children) entered “illegally” or overstayed a valid visa. Certain types of criminal convictions may also be waived for immigration purposes for a “U” victim.
Our government recognizes that victims of crime may be fearful of reporting crimes because the victim may be afraid of risking deportation if law enforcement is involved. Victims should be aware that law enforcement is trained to assist victims, regardless of their legal status, and applicable federal laws prohibit law enforcement from asking a victim about his immigration status when he reports a crime. Reporting crimes and cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the crimes helps make our communities safer because the criminals face consequences, including jail and prison time!
To qualify for “U” status, you must be a victim of a qualifying crime. Those crimes include felony assault (including armed robbery and armed burglary), sexual crimes, domestic violence, criminal restraint/kidnapping, murder/manslaughter, blackmail and extortion, perjury and obstruction of justice, and certain work-related crimes where an employer takes unfair advantage of a worker because of his unlawful immigration status. It doesn’t matter when the crime occurred, provided a law enforcement agency will certify the crime and the victim’s cooperation.
Even if you were not a direct victim, you may still qualify for “U” status if you qualify as an “indirect victim”. For example, if your minor child or spouse is a victim, you may qualify as an indirect victim if you reported the crime and cooperated in the investigation and prosecution on your child or spouse’s behalf. In some limited circumstances, you may even qualify if you were a bystander/witness to the crime if you suffered significant and unusual direct harm as a result of the crime.
If you qualify for “U” status, you may also include certain family members in your processing, even if they were not victims of the crime. For example, a victim under 21 can include his spouse, child, parent, and unmarried siblings under 18. A victim over 21 can include his spouse and children under 21. You may include these family members in your processing if they are living in the U.S. or if they are living abroad.
“U” status and related work authorization are valid for up to four years, but you may apply for permanent residency (“green card”) after completing three years of continuous presence of “U” status in the U.S. You may also be eligible to include certain family members in your permanent residency processing, even if they were not included with your original “U” visa processing.
We will work with you and your family members throughout the “U” process, including working with law enforcement agency officials to obtain required certifications for “U” processing. If you or a family member is detained by immigration authorities or is otherwise facing removal, we will work to stay deportation pending the “U” processing.