Reuben S. Seguritan

Visas for Crime Victims Reach Annual Cap for Four Straight Years

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Each year, 10,000 U nonimmigrant visas are available to victims of crime who suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. For the past four years, including fiscal year 2013, the statutory limit was reached.

 

Since the U-visa program started in 2008, over 76,000 U visas have been issued to victims and their families. Congress created the program to “strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes, while also offering protection to victims.”

The visa is available to crime victims who are in the United States or abroad. Filipino teachers and domestic workers who have been victims of trafficking have applied for this visa.

To request U nonimmigrant status, the crime victim must file with the Vermont Service Center Form I-918 and Form I-918 Supplement B which is a certification from a U.S. law enforcement agency.

The principal applicant for U visa may petition a qualifying family member for a nonimmigrant derivative visa. If the principal applicant is under 21, he may petition his spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under 18. If the principal applicant is 21 years old or older, only the spouse and children under 21 may be included. The principal applicant will have to file Form I-918 Supplement A for the qualifying family member.

USCIS continues to accept U-visa petitions for fiscal year 2014 and will process them in the order they are received. It will start issuing U visas on October 1, 2013, the first day of fiscal year 2014. Petition for U visa requires a certification of assistance from law enforcement on Form I-918B.

Holders of U nonimmigrant visas may apply for permanent residence. To be eligible, the applicant must have been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since the first date of admission as a U nonimmigrant and must continue to hold that status at the time of the application for adjustment of status.

Also, the applicant must not have unreasonably refused to provide assistance to the investigation and prosecution of the crime, is not inadmissible under section 212(a)(3)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and must establish that his presence in the U.S. is justified on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity or in the public’s best interest. To adjust status, the applicant must file Form I-485 and concurrently file Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.

Family members of a U nonimmigrant may also apply for a green card; however, the benefit only extends to spouse, children and parents of the U nonimmigrant but not to siblings. If the family member already holds a derivative U nonimmigrant status and meets the basic requirements for eligibility, the qualifying family member must file Form I-485 to adjust status. Qualifying family members who never held a derivative U nonimmigrant status may also apply for a green card. To be eligible, the qualifying family member must not have been admitted to the U.S. on a U nonimmigrant status and that either the family member of the U principal applicant would suffer extreme hardship if the family member is not allowed to remain or enter the U.S.

The U principal applicant must file an immigrant petition on Form I-929 for the qualifying family member. He may file petition concurrently with or after he files his adjustment of status application. The I-485 application of the U principal applicant must be approved first before Form I-929 petition can be approved.

Once Form I-929 is approved, the qualifying family member who is already in the U.S. may file Form I-485. Form I-485 application of family member cannot be filed concurrently with Form I-929. If living abroad, qualifying family member may apply for visa through consular processing.

 

(Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For more information, you may log on to his website at www.seguritan.com or call (212) 695-5281.)

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