Experiencing crime can be very traumatic, and that’s especially true if you’re an immigrant. Immigrants tend to be unfamiliar with U.S. laws and often have no idea what to do if they’re victimized by a crime.
These factors can make immigrants attractive targets to criminals. Many criminals go after non-U.S. citizens because they either can’t or won’t testify against them for fear of deportation.
If you’re an immigrant crime victim, here’s what you need to know from a U visa immigration attorney in Connecticut.
What Is the U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)?
The U.S. government understands that many immigrants may be reluctant to testify in criminal cases because they’re worried about retaliation or deportation. In response to these fears, the government created the U visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (this includes the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act).
The U visa protects crime victims who aren’t U.S. citizens. It also aims to encourage law enforcement cooperation to help police deliver justice to criminals with the help of their immigrant victims.
Benefits of the U Visa
If granted to you, your U visa lasts for four years. If law enforcement needs your help for longer than that, or your case has exceptional circumstances, you may be granted an extension.
While your U visa is valid, you:
- Cannot be deported
- Can legally live and work in the U.S.
- Can get a driver’s license and open a bank account
- Can enroll in college or a trade school
You’ll also be able to apply for a green card (lawful permanent resident status) after three years. After five years, you can apply for U.S. citizenship.
Are You Eligible for the U Visa?
To be eligible for U nonimmigrant status, you must be the victim of qualifying criminal activity. You must also:
- Have information about the crime and be willing to provide it to law enforcement
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime
The list of crimes that can qualify you for a U visa is extensive. The following are some of the most common qualifying crimes:
- Domestic violence
- Kidnapping, abduction, and trafficking
- Sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and rape
- Obstruction of justice
How To Apply for the U Visa
To apply for a U visa, complete Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. If you’re inadmissible because of past immigrant violations, contact a U visa immigration attorney in Connecticut. They’ll help you complete Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission To Enter as a Nonimmigrant.
You’ll also need to complete Supplement B of Form I-918. This form must be signed by law enforcement and certify you are or will be helpful in investigating the case.
Other information you’ll need to supply to the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes:
- A statement describing the crime and the abuse you suffered because of it
- Medical records proving the abuse you suffered
- Police reports proving you were the victim of a crime
- Documentation proving your identity
- A photo that meets the U.S. visa requirements
If you’re currently not in the U.S., you must:
- Send all of the above documents to the Vermont Service Center
- Schedule and participate in an interview at your nearest U.S. Embassy
Contact Our Firm If You’re an Immigrant Victim of a Crime
If you’ve been victimized by a crime, we know applying for U nonimmigrant status can feel very overwhelming. An immigration attorney in Connecticut can help you understand the requirements to determine whether you qualify.
Book a consultation with the Law Offices of James A. Welcome at (475) 241-0824 to learn more.