Virginia U Visa Attorney

U nonimmigrant status, or the U visa, is available to people who are victims of crimes in the United States and who have been helpful in the investigation and/or the prosecution of the crime in which they were a victim. They apply on USCIS Form I-918, and USCIS is the only government entity that has authority to approve or deny a U visa application. Even if someone is in immigration court, they have to submit their application with USCIS and wait for a decision before they can terminate their case with the court. Immigration judges do not have jurisdiction over a U visa.

The first step in obtaining nonimmigrant status is applying for a law enforcement certification, which is done on Form I-918 B. An individual needs to get this form certified stating that they were in fact a victim of a crime, that the crime is one of the qualifying crimes enumerated under U visa legislation and they were helpful in whatever investigation or prosecution occurred. They can apply for that certification from a prosecutor, a police officer or a judge. It is advisable to consult with an attorney regarding U visa status, and the application process. A Virginia U visa attorney will have the knowledge and experience to guide an individual through the process.

U Visa Eligibility

Anyone who is not a lawful permanent resident, has been a victim of one of the qualifying U visa crimes and has been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that crime is eligible to apply for a U visa. A U visa lawyer in Virginia, can be of great help in determining eligibility.

First, an individual must obtain the law enforcement certification, and only at that point are they actually eligible to apply with USCIS for the U visa. The law enforcement certification is sort of like their ticket to apply for the U visa, and they need to get it before they actually apply. If they do not have their law enforcement certification signed at the time they submit their application with USCIS, their case will automatically be rejected.

With the U visa, there is a very broad waiver that waives a lot of the criminal grounds that will bar them from many other kinds of immigration statuses. It can also waive things like prior orders of deportation and unlawful entry into the United States. It is among the broadest waivers in immigration law.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

In general, assisting the government in investigating or prosecuting violent crimes makes a person eligible for a U visa. For instance, domestic violence, whether it is aggravated or simple assault, will likely qualify. There are some nonviolent crimes that can make an individual eligible as well, including blackmail and witness tampering.

There is a long list of crimes, but there are some crimes that are not enumerated on the list that can still qualify an individual for a U visa. That is because the qualifying crimes come from federal immigration law, but each state has different ways to qualify their criminal offenses. Therefore, an individual, with the assistance of a Virginia U visa attorney, needs to make the argument that their state’s offense would qualify as a crime under the federal definition of that general crime. For instance, someone might be a victim of a crime that was only charged as a simple assault or an aggravated robbery, neither of which are enumerated offenses for the U visa. Nonetheless, they can still qualify if they can prove that the criminal activity could have been charged as one of the enumerated offenses in federal court. Often, if it is a situation in which a weapon was involved, even if the crime was only charged as a simple assault, they can claim that it should qualify as an aggravated assault under US immigration law.

Essentially, the crime does not necessarily have to be on that list in order to qualify. But if it is not on that list—or even if it is on that list—it is important for the individual to talk to a Virginia U visa immigration lawyer before applying to make sure that they are making the right argument and getting certified for the proper crime.