The Purpose of U-Visas
How long does it take for the U visa to be approved? The U nonimmigrant visa is a visa designation granted to victims of criminal offenses that may have suffered mental or physical abuse or trauma as a result. U visas are a special category of visas intended to provide victims of abuse with additional support and shelter, while simultaneously cracking down on abuse cases, especially those involving sexual assault, domestic violence or human trafficking. A U visa provides the victim with temporary immigration status and employment eligibility but is contingent upon the victim’s cooperation in identifying, investigating, and/or prosecuting the person or persons that victimized them.
You may be eligible for U-status if:
- You are found to be the victim of a qualifying crime
- You have suffered mental or physical abuse due to the qualifying crime
- You possess information about the crime (or have a parent, guardian or friend who may provide information on your behalf if you are under 16 or have a disability)
- You were deemed successful in helping law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of a crime
- The crime broke U.S. laws or occurred in the U.S.
- You are admissible to the United States or have applied for a waiver if non-admissible
Process of Applying for a U Visa
To apply for a U visa, you will need to file the following:
- Form I-918.
- Form I-918, Supplement B. This must be signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency and certifies the victim’s cooperation with investigation or prosecution.
- A personal statement detailing the crime
- Supporting evidence (translated to English if applicable), which may include:
- Evidence you are the victim of qualifying criminal activity
- Evidence you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse
- Evidence you possess information concerning criminal activity, and that the criminal activity is qualifying and violated United States law or occurred in the United States
- In some instances, you may be able to obtain visa status for an accompanying family member if they meet specific qualifications. For more detailed information, please refer to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) webpages for Form I-918 and U Nonimmigrant Status.
How The USCIS Processes Applications
Once USCIS accepts your paperwork, they will ensure that it is filled out completely and accurately. If you do not correctly or completely fill out all required paperwork, your application may be rejected or denied by USCIS. If your U visa is granted, you will receive employment authorization. Detailed information on the processes for Form I-918, Supplement A, and Supplement B can be found in the linked attachments included under the Forms and Document Downloads section of the Form I-918 page.
Information based on the latest estimated processing times can be found on the USCIS Processing Times page, which currently estimates processing time as roughly fifty-six months.
Why Are U Visa Applications So Slow?
Once USCIS receives your application, they will begin processing it; however, applications are processed in the order in which they are received. They are also further limited to granting up to 10,000 U visa applications per year and have historically maxed out each year. Once this limit is reached, USCIS will continue to accept additional applications but will postpone approval, with a “deferred action” status.
Consult Johnson & Masumi for More Information on Your Case
Going through the U Visa application process alone can be a very complicated and emotionally taxing experience, so it is recommended that any victim of abuse applying for U visa status seek counsel from an experienced immigration lawyer. Although it may be tempting to try to handle the process on your own, it is strongly cautioned that you avoid doing so. As of September 11, 2018, USCIS issued a new policy that applies to all visa applications, petitions, and requests except for DACA cases. The new policy grants immigration officers full discretion to deny any applications or petitions that are incomplete or ineligible. This means that if you make a mistake in your application process, your case can be denied and you will not be reimbursed for your filing fees. Consulting with an immigration attorney ensures that your case is handled smoothly and competently from the start, giving you the best possible chance of getting your application approved. To learn more about eligibility requirements for U visas or receive help in navigating the application process, do not hesitate to contact the expert immigration lawyers at Johnson & Masumi.