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U Visa, VAWA

U Visa

U Nonimmigrant Status for Victims of Criminal Activity

The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The purpose of granting a U nonimmigrant statusto eligible applicants is to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. This also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.

Eligibility requirements:

A person may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa or status if:

  • The applicant is the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
  • The victim/applicant has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
  • The victim/applicant has information about the criminal activity and is able to provide such information. If s/he is under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend* may possess the information about the crime on his/her behalf.
  • * 'Next Friend' refers to a person who appears in a lawsuit to act for the benefit of a foreign national who is under the age of 16, or is incapacitated or incompetent, who has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of qualifying criminal activity. The next friend is not a party to the legal proceeding and is not appointed as a guardian.
  • S/he was helpful, is helpful, or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
  • The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
  • The victim/applicant is admissible to the United States. If not admissible, s/he may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

Qualifying Crimes

Victims of any one of 28 criminal activities who cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of suchcriminal activities, suffer harm, and receive government certification for such cooperation, are eligible for Unonimmigrant status.Qualifying crimes include ( but are not limited to): rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, being held hostage, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the aforementioned crimes.

Process to Obtain the U Visa:

To petition for U nonimmigrant status, the victim or someone petitioning on the victim's behalf must submit Form I-918 to USCIS. A petition for U nonimmigrant status must also contain a certification of helpfulness from a "certifying agency". That means the victim must provide a U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918, Supplement B) from a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency that demonstrates the petitioner "has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful" in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. [Each client must bring a copy of the police report filed by the victim/applicant or filed by someone else on their behalf. We can contact the law enforcement agency who investigated the case and request a certification of the client's assistance.] Further, the head of the agency must sign the certification. Certified agencies include federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies; or a prosecutor, judge or other authority that has responsibility for the investigation of the criminal activity. Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor also qualify as certifying agencies since they have criminal investigative jurisdiction within their respective areas of expertise.

A Form I-929 petition may also be submitted for eligible family members to obtain U nonimmigrant status as a derivative.

VAWA

Immigrant Visa Petition for Battered Spouse, Children & Parents

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a battered spouse, child or parent, may file an immigrant visa petition. The VAWA provisions in the INA allow certain spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and certain spouses and children of permanent residents (Green Card holders) to file a petition for themselves, without the abuser's knowledge. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing.

VAWA "self-petition":Under the provisions of VAWA, a battered spouse, child or parent may file a "self-petition" for lawful permanent resident status without the cooperation of an abusive spouse, parent, or adult child who is a U.S. citizen or a "green-card" holder.If the VAWA self-petition is approved, the applicant can obtain work authorization, and may be able to apply for lawful permanent residence ("green card") status.

The VAWA provisions apply equally to women and men.There is no numerical limit to the number of VAWA self-petitions that may be filed in any given year.

Who can file

  • Spouse: You may file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You may also file as an abused spouse if your child has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You may also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.
  • Parent: You may file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
  • Child: You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, unmarried and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. You may also file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing. A VAWA self-petition is similar to a Petition for Alien Relative, but is meant to allow a self-petitioner to requeststatus independently, without the involvement (or knowledge) of his or her abusive USC or LPR familymember. In recognition of a self-petitioner's special circumstances, with only limited exceptions, immigrationauthorities cannot disclose information about self-petitioners1 and cannot make determinations of a Self-petitioner'sinadmissibility or deportability relying solely on information provided to immigration authoritiesby the abuser or the abuser's family members.
  • A pending VAWA self-petition qualifies a self-petitioner to receive certain public benefits. ApprovedVAWA self-petitioners and their derivatives (if present in the United States) are eligible for employment authorization and are generally issued "deferred action." An approved VAWA self-petition is also a basis forfiling for adjustment of status under INA §245(a) and (c). VAWA self-petitioners whose qualifying relationshipis to a USC, are eligible to file for adjustment of status (AOS) concurrently with their VAWA Self-petition,while self-petitioners whose qualifying relationship is to an LPR have a current priority date to beeligible to file for AOS. USCIS will issue petitioners a priority date with the approval of the Form I-360, Petitionfor Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, unless the self-petitioner had a previously approved I-130. If so, the self-petitioner can request that the previous priority date be applied to their VAWA Self-Petition.

For more information, please contact us at 215-368-8600 or ak@akaimmigration.com

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