U Visa Eligibility Requirements in Maryland

The basic eligibility requirements for a U Visa are that a person was a victim of a crime in the United States and that the person was helpful in the prosecution or the investigation of a crime. A person also needs to prove they endured substantial harm or substantial suffering as a result of their victimization and that they are not otherwise inadmissible. However, if a person is otherwise inadmissible— if they had prior immigration violations, a prior order of removal, or other criminal convictions themself—they may be able to apply for a waiver via Form I-192, which is a broad waiver available to U Visa applicants.

An experienced Maryland U Visa attorney can walk a person through the process, help the person to collect the relevant documentation, and prepare the file in a way that will be easily adjudicated by USCIS. It is advisable to have an attorney in these cases but it is particularly important when a person’s crime is one not explicitly enumerated or one not explicitly listed on the list of qualifying crimes. For instance, if it was an armed robbery, a person very well may be able to argue that it would qualify under the federal definition of felonious assault, but that is a legal argument that needs to be made in a person’s application.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

There is a long list of qualifying crimes but they are general descriptions of crimes because U Visas are adjudicated under federal law. The general federal descriptions of crimes and each state’s statute will be worded differently. A person needs to see if the state’s statute that the crime was charged under or investigated under will fit under the federal umbrella description of the crime. But examples of qualifying crimes are felonious assaults, sexual assaults, stalking, domestic violence, witness tampering, and a number of other crimes but a person needs to speak to an attorney if they have a question on whether or not their crime sits within the enumerated list.

Length of Process

The process usually takes at least a year and then if a person’s case is approved, they will be put into a deferred action status and then the person needs to wait for the new U Visa numbers to open up, which happens every October. It can take up to two years at this point after the provisional approval is issued.

Common Mistakes through the U-Visa Process

One of the most common mistakes people make is on the list of qualifying crimes for the U Visa, which is explicitly stated on the certification form. There is a box there that says related crimes or other. And a lot of times people will check the box “other” and put in their crime. That does not qualify. It used to work when these first started being adjudicated, those that review the applications in Vermont would evaluate the case on their own and they would approve crimes if a person just said that it was similar to one of the statutes. Many legal advocates believe they should still be doing that because that is the way the statute is worded.

A person should be able to qualify with similar crimes, but the actual practice right now is not to approve cases when a person is just saying my crime was similar to one of the federal statutes. A person needs to say their crime could have been charged under federal law. A person needs to say it is a different legal argument and a lot of people are not aware of that. It is important to be are aware of the current practices and having an attorney can definitely help with this.

U Visas Intersection with Criminal Proceedings

An important thing to keep in mind is that criminal defense attorneys can use the U Visa against a person in a criminal proceeding because if they are aware that a person is applying for it and that a person is seeking the help of the police or prosecutor to get the certification signed, they can state that it was a person’s motive in bringing charges. It is a common practice with criminal offense attorneys.

In a lot of cases, a person wants to be cognizant of that—for instance, a lot of prosecutors are helpful with signing new visas certifications, but they want attorneys to wait to submit the application until the proceedings are complete. At that point, they do not have to address it in court and they do not have to admit that they are helping the witnesses and victim out in that way and it can create a conflict of interest as a motive for reporting the crime. It is something that a person needs to keep in mind if there are open criminal proceedings.

Role of U Visa as a Deportation Defense

The U Visa is a great defense for deportation or removal, if a person is in removal proceedings, especially for people that do not have other options to apply. Even if a person is in deportation proceeding or removal proceedings in front of an immigration judge, a person still needs to go through the same process and apply with USCIS. An immigration judge will never have jurisdiction to adjudicate the U Visa. What a person can do in these cases is to submit the U Visa with the Vermont Service Center and then request continuances of a person’s case in immigration court for however long it takes for Vermont to adjudicate the case. Once the decision is issued by Vermont, they can move to terminate proceedings. A U Visa attorney is helpful if a person wants to proceed with this defense.

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