U Visa

A U Visa is a way to get a work permit and then eventually a “green card” if an undocumented person has been a victim of certain crimes and that person was helpful to the police or other law enforcement agency. 

The police or the district attorney or other law enforcement agency have to be willing to sign a form saying that the person was helpful and never refused to help them.  A person also has to show that they suffered emotionally or physically because of the crime.


Here is the list of crimes that qualify for a potential U Visa – most are violent crimes:

Abduction
Abusive Sexual Contact
Blackmail
Contracting
Domestic Violence
Extortion
False Imprisonment
Female Genital Mutilation
Felonious Assault
Fraud in Foreign Labor

Hostage
Incest
Involuntary Servitude
Kidnapping
Manslaughter
Murder
Obstruction of Justice
Peonage
Perjury
Prostitution

Rape
Restraint
Sexual Assault
Sexual Exploitation
Slave Trade
Stalking
Torture
Trafficking
Witness Tampering
Unlawful Criminal

 

Other Related Crimes – this includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.  Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.  Even if the crime a potential U Visa applicant was a victim of isn’t listed, it still might count if it is a similar crime.


What does it mean for me to have helped the police or law enforcement?

It can mean that you told the police or other law enforcement what happened to you and said that you were willing to answer more questions or go to court to testify if they asked you.  If you were under 16 when the crime was being investigated, you are also eligible if your parents helped on your behalf.  If the person who committed the crime was arrested and there was a criminal case against that person, it can also mean going to court and testifying or at least telling the district attorney or the police that you are willing to go to court and testify.

The important thing is that you (or your parents) didn’t tell the police or district attorney that you don’t want to help.  Before you can apply for a U Visa, the police or the district attorney or other law enforcement agency (like CPS) has to sign a form saying that you helped them.  If they won’t sign that form, you won’t be able to apply.  Your attorney can ask the specific law enforcement agency to sign the form.


What else do I have to show in order to be approved?

You have to show that you suffered emotionally or physically because of the crime.  You can show this through a letter that your attorney will help you write and if you are seeing a counselor or a therapist, your attorney can also write a letter to help.  If you were hurt physically and had to go to the hospital, the hospital records or a letter from your doctor can help.

If you have been convicted of committing a crime yourself, you will have to show immigration that you are sorry for breaking the law and are not going to commit any more crimes.


How long will it take until I get my work permit?

Once you submit your application, it takes at least one year to get the first work permit.  The work permit will be good for two years and you should be able to keep renewing it until you have your green card.


How long will it take until I get a green card? 

It takes a long time to get the green card.  After you get your two-year work permit, you will be put on a waiting list to get a work permit that is good for four years.  Three years after you received your four-year work permit (so one year before it expires) you can apply for your green card.  It is really important to apply for the green card before the four-year work permit expires!


Can I include my family members in the case?

If you are under 21 when you apply for a U Visa, you can also apply for your parents and your siblings who are under 18.  If you are married or have children, you can also include your spouse and your children if they weren’t born in the U.S.  You can’t apply for the person who committed the crime against you even if that person is your family member.


How can I learn more about U Visas? 

The Immigration Center for Women and Children made a video about U Visas and the application process (the video is in Spanish):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_G9v98dWpI.

For more information, look at the USCIS webpage.


If you don’t live in San Francisco, or a person over 21 years old, and want to apply for a U Visa, click here for more resources.


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