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Everything You Need to Know About Visa U

Being a victim of a crime, regardless of its nature, is terrible in and of itself. However, when the victim in question is an illegal immigrant, navigating the aftermath becomes an even more complex ordeal. After all, how can you report a crime to the authorities if the same authorities pose a potential threat to your immigration status?

Unsurprisingly, the fear of deportation has historically caused many crimes in the U.S. to go unreported (or underreported). This changed in 2000 with the introduction of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and the U nonimmigrant visa program. Here’s everything you need to know about the visa U (or U visa, as it’s more commonly referred to) and how to get your U visa.

We’ll put one of the best parts of the entire article front and center.  Are you a Visa U applicant waiting for your approval who still needs your BFD and work permit?  Pro Se Pro is a company helping thousands of Visa U applicants get their Bona Fide Determination and work permit in under 60 days. 

Introduction to Visa U

The visa U is a unique type of visa offered to non-documented victims of specific crimes who’ve suffered significant mental or physical abuse (or harm) as a consequence. To be eligible for the visa U, these victims must also be willing to cooperate with the relevant authorities, thus assisting them in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of specific criminal activities. 

The importance of the visa U program can’t be understated. 

On the one hand, this program encourages victims to come forward and report crimes, fostering a safe environment for all those living in the U.S. Hopefully, this move will bring them justice while also providing some incredible citizenship benefits in the process (e.g., work authorization). Best of all? Visa U holders can go on to obtain lawful permanent residency or the so-called Green Card if they meet all the eligibility requirements.

On the other hand, the U.S. legal system also benefits from this program immensely. With the victims’ cooperation, law enforcement officials are better equipped to detect, investigate, and prosecute crimes. Of course, this program also allows the U.S. to fulfill its humanitarian interests by providing protection and support to those who have experienced significant harm.

Visa U holders also have the benefit of getting their bona fide determination and work permit while they wait.  If you applied for a Visa U but have not received your work permit, join hundreds using Pro Se Pro to get their BFD and EAD in under 60 days.

Eligibility Criteria for Visa U

As mentioned in the previous section, there’s more than one eligibility requirement for the visa U. So, let’s list all these criteria, the U visa process and explain them in detail.

  • Being a victim of qualifying criminal activities. To be eligible for the visa U, you must be a victim of criminal activity. However, this comes with two caveats. One, the crime in question must be committed in the U.S. (or one of its territories or possessions) or violate U.S. laws. And two, only qualifying crimes are taken into consideration. You’ll be able to read the full list of these crimes in the very next section.
  • Demonstrating substantial physical or mental abuse. Just being a victim of a crime isn’t enough to merit visa U eligibility. You must also demonstrate that you’ve suffered extensive physical or mental abuse as a consequence of this crime. This requirement underscores the program’s focus on aiding those who need help the most.
  • Having in-depth information about the qualifying criminal activities. Another essential criterion for visa U eligibility is having comprehensive knowledge about the crime that has been committed. As an applicant, you’ll be expected to provide detailed information about the nature of the crime, the circumstances surrounding it, and any relevant evidence that could aid law enforcement.
  • Showing willingness to help law enforcement with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. All the valuable information you have about the crime must be shared with the appropriate authorities for your visa U application to progress. Based on your contribution, these authorities will issue the so-called “Certificate of Helpfulness,” an essential component in the visa U petition process. 

When it comes to the last two requirements, the victim of the crime doesn’t necessarily have to be the one to share information about it. This peculiar scenario applies to situations where the victim is under 16, incapacitated, or incompetent in any way. In these situations, the following individuals can act on behalf of the victim:

  • Parents 
  • Guardians 
  • A next friend

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a next friend is a person appointed to act for the benefit of an alien involved in the visa U application process despite not having a direct personal standing in the case. 

Qualifying Crimes for Visa U

As mentioned, only qualifying criminal activities are considered for visa U eligibility. The USCIS provides an exhaustive list of these crimes, describing them in terms of their general categories. The only exception is fraud in foreign labor contracting, which is an explicitly cited federal offense. 

The general categories of the qualifying crimes are as follows:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive sexual contact
  • Blackmail 
  • Domestic violence
  • Extortion
  • False imprisonment
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Felonious assault
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of justice 
  • Peonage (forced to work to pay off a debt)
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual exploitation 
  • Slave trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness tampering
  • Unlawful criminal restraint

This list can also include activities that share many of the same elements as the listed crimes. In addition, even attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit any of the qualifying crimes can secure visa U eligibility for the victim.

As you can probably tell, some of these crimes are seemingly less severe than others. That’s why they often have a more challenging burden of proof. For instance, to be considered a victim of witness tampering, you’d have to reasonably demonstrate that the alleged perpetrator committed the offense to:

  • Obstruct justice
  • Avoid investigation, arrest, or prosecution 
  • Further their abuse, exploitation, or control 

The Role of Certification in the U Visa Process

We’ve already established that the willingness to help law enforcement is a crucial eligibility requirement for the visa U. However, this willingness must be acknowledged and validated through a process of certification. 

This process involves Form I-918, Supplement B, officially known as the U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. This form, or more precisely, certificate, contains the victim’s information, the certifying agency’s information, the details about the criminal acts committed, and an explanation of the victim’s helpfulness.

This certificate can be awarded to the victim at any point in the investigation or prosecution process, depending on their specific contributions. 

But be careful – simply receiving a signed Form I-918b doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be accepted for the visa U status. This form is only one component of all the documentation and supporting evidence you must submit to the USCIS when applying for a visa U.

Applying for Visa U: A Step-by-Step Guide

Technically, the visa U application process only consists of a single step – submitting the necessary documentation and evidence to the USCIS. But given the sheer number of these documents, as well as other considerations, this guide will walk you through everything you need to do before filing your documentation and what to expect afterward. 

How to Apply for Visa U Step by Step

All visa U applicants will go through the first three steps. The rest will depend on their specific circumstances and the USCIS’s decision-making.

Step 1 – Gathering Documentation

Your visa U application won’t stand a chance if you don’t meticulously gather all the necessary documents. Keep in mind that some of these forms might call for additional documents, whose copies must be delivered with an English translation. 

The documents you will 100% need include the following:

  • Form I-918: Petition for U Nonimmigrant status 
  • Form I-918b, completed and signed by an authorized official
  • A personal statement describing the crime committed against you

As for the documents you might need, there’s only one to consider – Form I-192. Officially titled the Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant, it allows individuals who might be inadmissible to the U.S. due to certain factors to seek permission to temporarily enter the country. This form is also the only one that comes with a fee, and a hefty one at that – $930.

Step 2 – Collecting Evidence

Each of the documents outlined in Step 1 will have to be accompanied by evidence that substantiates the claims made in them. At the same time, this evidence should indisputably prove your visa U eligibility across each and every requirement. So, when it comes to Step 2, remember one thing – the more, the better.

Gather any piece of evidence that corroborates your story, including the following:

  • Police reports and orders of protection
  • Court documents and trial transcripts
  • Affidavits 
  • Medical records
  • Visual evidence (e.g., photos of injuries)
  • News articles

The affidavits, or sworn statements, should come from anyone who can attest to the veracity of your claims, from family members and acquaintances to professionals such as medical practitioners and social service workers.

Step 3 – Filing the Application

Once you gather all the documents and evidence, it’s time to mail them to the USCIS. Depending on where you live, you can send the application to the USCIS Vermont Service Center or its Nebraska counterpart. 

Step 4 – Attending the USCIS Appointment

Not all visa U applicants will go through Step 4. But those who do will be required to come for an appointment at the local USCIS offices (the exact location will be sent via a notice). During this appointment, you’ll be required to provide biometric data (e.g., fingerprints) to be used to verify your identity and conduct a background check.

Step 5 – Waiting for a Decision

After submitting the visa U application and providing biometric data, the rest is up to the USCIS. Now, you might think only two scenarios can unfold during this waiting period – getting a notice of denial or approval.

However, two additional scenarios can take place before these notices – the bona fide determination and the waiting list inclusion. 

Pro Se Pro can help you get your Bona Fide Determination and work permit in under 60 days.  If you are still waiting on your Visa U decision, contact them to join hundreds of Visa U applicants who’ve already received work permits good for 4 years.

Including Family Members in Your Application

Before explaining the two possible scenarios mentioned above, we must address an aspect that might impact the first three steps – your family.

As a victim of the crime(s), and u visa news you’re considered the principal petitioner and potentially eligible for the U-1 visa. However, some of your family members might also be eligible for derivative U visas (types U-2 to U-5). These family members include:

  • Spouse
  • Child(ren)
  • Parents
  • Siblings (unmarried and minor)

Keep in mind that you’ll only be able to apply for a derivative visa for your parents and siblings if you’re under 21 and unmarried. For this application, you’ll need another Form I-918 – Supplement A (Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Resident. You can submit this form during Step 3, but your family member(s) will only be able to receive a visa after your U-1 status is approved. 

Understanding the Bona Fide Determination

When broken into easy-to-follow steps, the visa U petition process seems like something that can be done fairly quickly and efficiently. But in reality, describing this process as “quick” couldn’t be further from the truth. As of 2023, the average waiting time for a visa U decision was roughly 60 months or five years. 

In an effort to protect victims during these lengthy periods, the USCIS introduced the bona fide determination process in 2021. Thanks to this process, all applicants whose petitions are deemed “bona fide,” or in good faith, are eligible for deferred action, shielding them from deportation. This determination also makes them eligible for other crucial rights, such as work authorization, allowing these victims to lead a relatively stable life while navigating the prolonged waiting period. 

After Submission: Navigating the Waiting Period and Beyond

Let’s say you’ve received a bona fide determination. What’s next? 

If you want to work, the answer is simple – file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). If approved, you’ll receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in a week or two, allowing you to work legally in the U.S.

But what if you don’t receive a bona fide determination? Does that mean your application has been denied? No, it doesn’t.

In this case, you will be put on the visa U waiting list. The USCIS created this waiting list to tackle the overwhelming number of applications exceeding the yearly statutory cap of 10,000.

You can utilize services from Pro Se Pro to speed up the decision on your BFD and EAD.  Thousands of applicants have already received their bona fide determination and work permits in under 60 days after using their U Visa Rapid Reponse PLUS service.

If you don’t get on the waiting list, then something might be wrong. If that’s the case, the USCIS will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). And unless you can provide additional (satisfactory evidence), the intent will turn into a reality.

This only leaves us with one more scenario – the notice of approval. With this notice, you’ll officially obtain the visa U (and all the benefits that come with it) for four years.

Transitioning to Lawful Permanent Residency

For most people, the U nonimmigrant status is only a temporary solution. The real goal is the lawful permanent resident status. Luckily, visa U holders can become eligible for this status (i.e., the Green Card) after some time.

Here are which eligibility requirements you must meet (and prove) first:

  • You must prove you’ve lived in the U.S. for at least three continuous years with visa U nonimmigrant status.
  • You must continue to assist law enforcement if requested (in a reasonable manner).
  • You mustn’t be inadmissible to the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(a)(3)(E) (there’s no waiver for this section).
  • Your presence in the U.S. is based on humanitarian grounds, public interest, or family reasons. 

If you meet these eligibility criteria, you can apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). But be careful when collecting supporting documents and evidence for this form, as their number is even greater than with Form I-918.

The sheer number of complexities involved in the visa U application process can overwhelm anyone, let alone those in vulnerable positions. For this reason, you shouldn’t even consider starting this process before seeking qualified legal assistance. Luckily, you can get this assistance in several ways, including consulting non-profit organizations and legal aids and working with an immigration lawyer specializing in U visas. 

Go Pro

The visa U application process holds immense importance for victims and law enforcement agencies alike. This process strengthens community ties while delivering much-needed justice. But as beneficial as this process is, it’s also highly complex. So, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice when needed while using this guide as a comprehensive reference.

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