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U Visa: Victims of Criminal Activity

The U visa was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) in October 2000. The purpose of the U visa is to help law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes including domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking of foreign nationals. The U visa is also designed to protect crime victims who suffer substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of such crime and want to assist law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity. If you are a foreign national victim of criminal activity, and you would like more information about obtaining a U visa, call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates to speak with our attorneys. We have more than 50 years of combined legal experience in a wide variety of complex and immigration law matters.

What does the U visa provide?

The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is valid for a maximum period of four years. You may get an extension if an agency certifies that your presence in the United States is necessary to help in the criminal investigation or prosecution. Upon approval of your U visa, you will also automatically receive an authorization to work (EAD card). There is a limit (or cap) of 10,000 U-1 visas that may be granted each year. If your application misses the cap, you will be placed on a priority waiting list for the next year.

How do I qualify?

You must establish the following criteria in order to qualify for the U visa:

  1. You must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse resulting from being a victim of a qualified criminal activity.
  2. You must have information concerning that criminal activity.
  3. You must have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the criminal investigation or prosecution.
  4. The criminal activity must have violated US laws.
What is a “qualified” criminal activity?

In order to qualify for the U visa, you must be the victim of qualifying criminal activity. Crimes that qualify are abduction, abusive sexual content, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes.

Do my family members qualify for U visas too? If so, which members?

Your spouse and children would qualify if you are 21 years of age or older. If you are under 21 years of age, your spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under age 18 would qualify. It must be established that either you or your family member would suffer extreme hardship if you are not allowed to remain in or be admitted to the United States. If you have any questions or concerns about whether you qualify for the U visa, please contact our immigration attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA to schedule a consultation with an attorney at one of our offices near you.

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