Visa Options for Victims of Crimes in Maryland

If you have been a victim of a crime in the United States, there are multiple options for you to obtain a visa. The U Visa is one of the most important ones, and an experienced attorney in Maryland will have worked with many U Visa applicants before if you are in need of assistance in applying. There is another type of application called the VAWA self-petition and that is for people who have been victims of abuse at the hands of a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident spouse.

The VAWA has a narrower category of victims that can apply, but a big difference is that, if a person was married to a United States citizen, it can lead directly to a green card. The only thing that is important in this application is that a person was abused, but there is no element of cooperating with the prosecutors or reporting the crime that is necessary for the U Visa application. It helps if a person did, but it is not a requirement. There are other victim-based applications, like T-Visas for victims of human trafficking. A person also has asylum, which is a victim-based application that involves people who have been victims of persecution outside the United States. An immigration attorney who specializes in these various options for visas for victims of crimes is essential with help in an application.

Process of Obtaining a Visa

The process for obtaining a U Visa is first to apply for a law enforcement certification, generally from a police or prosecutor, but sometimes from another investigative agency. Once a person has that law enforcement certification, they need to collect relevant documents to support the fact that the person suffered as the result of being a victim of this crime, that they were helpful in the investigation or prosecution, and that the person meets other qualifying requirements to have their case approved.

A person will submit the application to the Vermont Service Center of USCIS and wait for them to adjudicate a person’s case. If they approve a person’s case, they will issue a provisional approval that will allow a person to apply for a work authorization. Once the visa numbers become available under the cap, which opens up every October at the beginning of the fiscal year, then a person will be issued the actual U Visa status itself and that will be on a work authorization card that states that a person is a U Visa holder. Three years after that card is issued, assuming a person does not commit any crimes or have any other immigration violations, a person will be eligible to apply for their green card.

If a person is the spouse of a legal permanent resident or a US citizen and a person’s victimization was based on being battered by their spouse with lawful status, a person may want to evaluate their eligibility for a VAWA application instead of a U Visa. But if a person’s case is denied, it is possible to appeal it or a person may have other options depending on their particular circumstances.

Contacting an Attorney

For an attorney helping a victim of a crime discover visa options, it is important to present a person’s case in a way that is the most compelling and to know what the important factors of a person’s case are to highlight to USCIS in the application—particularly in a person’s personal statement. A lot of times it can be difficult to navigate the law enforcement community and to figure out where and with whom a person is supposed to apply for the U Visa certification. In many cases where the crime is not one of the enumerated crimes on the U Visa list, there is an argument that it could nonetheless qualify because the elements of the crime that a person was a victim of or the specific circumstances of their case could have been charged under federal law as one of the qualifying crimes. That is the legal argument that needs to be made and it is important that an attorney experienced in these applications helps someone to make these connections as USCIS will not.