The American U visa is meant for victims of criminal activity. Many criminals target visitors and tourists, as well as illegal immigrants, who are staying in the nation.
These crime victims are frequently crucial witnesses who can assist in convicting the culprit. They are, however, sometimes hesitant to offer this information because they are afraid of deportation.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, along with the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act, were passed by the US Congress in 2000 to eradicate this fear, which is a barrier to arresting many perpetrators.
This article is about the American U Visa for Victims of Criminal Activity and is meant to provide you with all the information you require regarding the American U Visa in the United States.
About American U Visa
The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa reserved for victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have experienced significant mental or physical abuse while in the United States and are prepared to help law enforcement and government authorities investigate or prosecute the criminal activity. It allows victims to enter or remain in the United States when they would otherwise be unable to do so.
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is reserved for victims of certain crimes who have been subjected to mental or physical abuse and who can assist law enforcement or government personnel in criminal investigations or prosecutions.
With the passing of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) by Congress in October 2000, the U nonimmigrant visa was formed.
The bill was enacted to improve law enforcement agencies’ ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, noncitizen trafficking, and other crimes, as well as to protect victims of crimes who have suffered significant mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime and are willing to assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The statute also aids law enforcement authorities in providing better service to crime victims.
It was created for two reasons:
- To safeguard victims of crimes who are not citizens of the United States.
- To collect information on offenses.
The U visa protects victims by granting them legal status in the United States, allowing US law enforcement to support them in their fight against the perpetrators of the crimes.
Furthermore, the victim who receives the U visa status provides crucial information about the incident to the police and other law enforcement agencies. This data may then be utilized to hunt down the perpetrator and bring him to justice.
Eligibility Criteria for the American U Visa
The offense must have occurred on US soil to qualify for the U visa. In addition, the crime victim must meet several requirements, including:
- Being a victim of one of the following crimes.
- Have been subjected to physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime.
- Be willing to work with the United States authorities to solve that crime.
- They have information about the crime that they share with the authorities. If the victim is under the age of 16, a family member or guardian may disclose the information on their behalf.
- The victim is eligible to enter the United States as a non-immigrant. If the victim is ineligible to enter the country, they must file Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-immigrant. The inadmissibility will be lifted if this form is accepted.
Benefits of the American U Visa
Victims who have been awarded U visa status have the right to remain in the United States for the duration of their visa. They are now considered legitimate non-immigrants, with the following rights:
- Open a bank account.
- Get a driver’s license.
- Enroll in an academic or vocational study.
- Work as legal employees.
How to Apply for the American U Visa
To obtain a U Visa, you must first fulfill a few basic tasks. These stages are mentioned and discussed in detail below:
- Cooperate with law enforcement to get victim status.
- Fill out the online application.
- Gather the appropriate documents and submit them to the USCIS or the US consulate in your country.
- Wait for your visa to be processed.
- Following the approval of a visa.
Step 1. Cooperate with law enforcement to get victim status
You should seek certification from law enforcement and help them in the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of the qualifying crime in which you were a victim.
After that, law enforcement will decide whether or not you should sign Form I-918 and/or Supplement B.
Step 2. Fill out the online application
Fill out Form DS-160, Application for Non-immigrant Visa, to start the American U visa application process. The form is available online and serves as the initial step in the application process for any non-immigrant visa.
You will receive a confirmation page and number after you submit all of your information and the specifics of the visa you are asking for, which you will require for your documents file.
Step 3. Submit your documents
Gather the appropriate documents and submit them to the USCIS or the US consulate in your country.
If you are applying while in the United States, you must transmit the following papers to USCIS:
- Petition for U Non-immigrant Status (Form I-918).
- U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, Form I-918, Supplement B. This is your Helpfulness Certification, which has been issued by a law enforcement authority or agency. It must mention that you assisted in the criminal case or that you will assist in the future for the inquiry to be effective.
- A personal statement outlining your position, the crime of which you were a victim, and the abuse you have endured.
- You have police and court records that prove you were a victim of a crime.
- Medical papers from physicians and hospitals show you were physically or mentally abused as a result of the crime. Letters, photos, and affidavits can all be used in this way.
- A valid passport or birth certificate are examples of documents that prove your identity.
- Letters from relatives and friends describe your ordeal as a result of the crime.
- You must file Form I-192 and have it approved if you are inadmissible due to previous immigration breaches.
- Confirmation page for the DS-160.
- One photo that satisfies the Photo Requirements for a US Visa.
Step 4. Wait for your visa to be processed
The USCIS then examines the petition for eligibility and, if required, asks for more proof. If you satisfy the requirements for an American U Visa but the statutory ceiling for the fiscal year (10,000 per year) has been reached, USCIS will add you to a waiting list.
Step 5. Receive your American U visa
When a visa becomes available, USCIS conducts another assessment of the case to ensure eligibility. Your petition for U nonimmigrant status will be authorized after it is found that you are eligible.
If you are not in the United States, you must complete the following steps:
- To the Vermont Service Center, submit all of the above-mentioned documentation.
- Make an appointment for an interview at the nearest US Embassy and receive a visa appointment letter.
- Interview with a representative from the US Embassy.
To be eligible for the U visa, you must have your petition granted by USCIS, whether you are applying from within or outside the United States. You will get a Form I-797, Notice of Action, from USCIS after your petition is approved, which you must attach to your papers.
You will also be needed to transmit biometric information to the Vermont Service Center of USCIS. This contains fingerprints as well as pictures.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Much Does an American U Visa Application Cost?
The application procedure is free of charge because it applies to victims of crimes and violence. There are no application costs, however, there are fees for filing some paperwork. You can, however, apply for a fee waiver by submitting a written request or Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.
How long does it take for an American U visa to be processed?
You must wait for USCIS to process your application once you submit it. The U visa, however, takes a long time to complete. The processing and approval of the U visa might take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
Processing timeframes may vary greatly, however, because if you are asked to submit extra proof to USCIS, for example, processing durations may increase.
How long is the American U Visa valid?
The U visa is valid for a maximum of four years from the day your petition is granted and stamped on your passport. You are authorized to reside and work in the United States as a non-immigrant for those four years.
When your status is about to expire, you can ask USCIS for an extension. Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, is used to request extensions.
What are the rights and responsibilities of U Visa dependents?
If your family members qualify for and are granted U-dependent visas, they are also permitted to apply for work permits and begin working. Their EADs will not be automatically given; instead, they must apply for them.
Your family members can also apply for a Green Card if you are granted one by completing Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Nonimmigrant. This petition must be filed separately for each family member.
What is the difference between the U visa and the T American visa?
The key distinction between the T and U visas is that the T visa is only awarded to victims of human trafficking, whilst the U visa is issued to victims of any serious crime.
For American U visa holders, the last phase, which includes the permission to work, is automatic. The victim receives the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) immediately after being given U status and does not need to complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. U visa holders with an EAD can work in any lawful business and in any capacity, full-time or part-time.
Furthermore, individuals are not required to find work right afterward; the EAD just grants them the right to work whenever they desire or feel capable.