March 4, 2019
U visas for Victims of Crime a Path to Legal Permanent Residency & Citizenship
At Bailey Immigration, PC we handle hundreds of U visas each year. If you have been a victim of crime in the United States & you reported that crime, you and your family may be eligible for a U visa.
First a judge, district attorney, police department or other agency with authority, must sign a U visa certification. The certification lists crimes that are a qualifying factor in obtain a U visa. Examples include: domestic violence, felony assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, rape, murder, stalking or any attempt to do one of the listed crimes. This is not a full list of eligible crimes.
Once the U certification is signed listing a qualifying crime and that the victim was helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution, then we can file for the U visa. Once a U visa holder has a U visa for 3 years, the U visa holder is eligible for legal permanent residency (must have maintained continuous residence in the USA for the past 3 years). Legal permanent residents may apply for citizenship after 4 years and 9 months of having legal permanent residency.
Here are some common questions that we are asked:
- How long does it take to get a U certification signed so that I may apply for a U visa? It typically takes about 2 weeks to 6 months for an agency to respond to our request for a U certification to be signed. The average time frame is about 2 months.
- Does the agency have to sign my U certification? No, the agency does not have to sign the U visa certification. It is essentially at their discretion. 90% of our U certification requests are signed by an agency. When we have denials, it is typically because the client did not want prosecution of the crime to go forward, they did not answer calls from the police or district attorney, they have a criminal history of their own, the case is very old and the records have been destroyed or they were themselves participating in a crime when they became a victim.
- If my U visa certification is signed, what family members may I include on my U visa application? You may include any children under 21 that are not married, a spouse, siblings under 18 if you are a minor and unmarried, parents if you are under 21 and not married.
- I have a deportation order and reentered the USA without inspection….am I still eligible for a U visa? Yes, there is a waiver for prior deportations and time in the USA unlawfully. We would like submit evidence of good moral character and hardship with your U visa packet.
- I have a criminal history, am I still eligible for a U visa? We will look at your history carefully to let you know whether, in our experience, you should apply. We have been successful at getting criminal grounds of inadmissibility waived, but it typically takes a stronger more time intensive packet to be put together and submitted.
- How long does it take to get the U visa approved or a decision? Currently, we are seeing a little over 3 years for U visa approvals. There is a backlog due to the number of applicants awaiting a decision. Only 10,000 U visas are issued per year. Though this is a long wait, it’s worth it. Our approved clients receive a U visa and employment authorization for 4 years.
- When may I apply for legal permanent residency (greencard)? After you have had your U visa for 3 years, you may apply for legal permanent residency. Keep all evidence that you have lived in the United States for those 3 years. To prove this, we typically use monthly bank statements for 3 years from our clients. After having legal permanent residency for 4 years and 9 months, you may apply for US Citizenship.
- I married after receiving my U visa, may I include my spouse that I recently married when I apply for legal permanent residency? We will look at your spouse’s immigration and criminal history. Typically the answer is yes, when you are applying for legal permanent residency through a U visa, you may include your new spouse.
The U visa is meant to help relations between the immigrant community/police/district attorney and other government agencies. It is beneficial to all to report crimes so that our communities are safer.
Recent examples of signed U visa certifications and approved U visas:
A victim was carjacked and beat with a gun.
An undocumented mother’s United States Citizen child was molested. The mother was listed as a victim on the U certification as she helped by reporting the crime and bringing the child to the police, hospital, and to court for hearings.
A victim of domestic violence at the hands of her partner.
A victim of domestic violence at the hands of his partner.
A victim of rape.
Please call us with any questions. We do a free phone consultation and can tell you if we think you have been the victim of an eligible crime and whether or not you qualify for a U visa. 503-224-0950