September 20, 2007

USCIS has recently issued regulations regarding the U visa. This visa provides for temporary immigration benefits to certain crime victims who are willing to assist law enforcement with criminal investigations.

The "U" nonimmigrant visa classification was originally created in October 2000 under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). However, until the issuance of the recent regulations, U visa classification has been unavailable due to the lack of concrete guidance as to how to administer the program. Pending the passage of these regulations, the USCIS had granted "U interim relief" to aliens who would otherwise have been eligible for U visa classification.

U Visa Classification Now Available.

USCIS announced, on September 5, 2007 that it would start granting U visa benefits to certain victims of crimes who assist government officials in investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity.

The interim final rule creates procedures for U visa status applicants and will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Eligibility Criteria

Under the statute, there are four eligibility requirements:

The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity (see below).
He/She has information concerning that criminal activity.
He/She has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, and
The criminal activity must have violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the U.S.

Qualifying Criminal Activity

Under the statute, "qualifying criminal activity" means an activity involving one or more of a long and non-exclusive list of activities that violate Federal, State, or local criminal law; for example, murder, rape, torture, sexual exploitation, extortion, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, false imprisonment, etc.

Application Procedure

Those who believe they are eligible for U visa classification must file a Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status on Form I-918. The form requests information regarding the petitioner's eligibility for such status, as well as admissibility to the US. USCIS has designated the Vermont Service Center as the centralized location to receive all such petitions.

The Form I-918 should be submitted with evidence proving eligibility. The I-918 instructions list the following required evidence/documentation:

Form I-918 Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification signed by appropriate law enforcement official, prosecutor, judge, or similar personnel.

Evidence the Petitioner is the victim of qualifying criminal activity (for example, , trial transcripts, court documents, protective orders, orders of protection and related legal documents, , news articles, etc.)

Evidence the Petitioner has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse (for example, reports and/or affidavits from officials, medical personnel, and/or witnesses; protective orders; photos of injuries, etc.)

Evidence the Petitioner possesses information concerning the qualifying criminal activity.
Evidence that the Petitioner is being helpful for the investigation or prosecution (for example, trial trial transcripts, court documents, police reports, news articles, affidavits, etc.)
Evidence the criminal activity is qualifying and violated US law or occurred in the US
Personal Statement describing the crime, and including the following information: the nature of the criminal activity; when the criminal activity occurred; who was responsible; the events surrounding the criminal activity; how the criminal activity came to be investigated or prosecuted; and what substantial physical and/or mental abuse the Petitioner suffered as a result of having been the victim of the criminal activity.

Eligibility for permanent resident status

Once the U visa status holder has been physically present in the US for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of admission as a U nonimmigrant, he/she may apply for permanent residence. If the USCIS determines that the individual's continued presence in the country is justified on humanitarian grounds to ensure continuation of a cohesive family, or is otherwise in the best interest of the public, permanent residence will be granted.

Duration of U status

U nonimmigrant status cannot be longer four years; however, extensions are allowed upon certification by a certifying agency that the individual's presence in the US is required to assist in the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying criminal activity.

Spouses and children

To avoid extreme hardship, the VTVPA allows derivative U status for applicants' spouses, children and parents of those U visa applicants under the age of 21.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Contact us at 410-719-1501.