Applying for a U Visa in Virginia

A U visa can be a very helpful way for an individual who has been the victim of a crime to obtain nonimmigrant status in the US. No matter how a person is applying for a U visa, it is frequently a complicated process and it is very important to have the assistance of a Virginia U visa attorney to explain and smooth out the process.

Applying From In and Outside the US

To request U nonimmigrant status from within the United States, someone must apply via Form I-918 with USCIS, and the application is sent to the Vermont Service Center. It’s the only office that has jurisdiction over these cases.

Applying for U nonimmigrant status outside of the US is basically the same process as applying within the US, but the individual will have to wait for the application to be approved before they can enter the US. They will still file via Form I-918 and it will still be filed at the Vermont Service Center, but the difference is that once the individual’s application is approved, the Vermont Service Center will transfer the case to the National Visa Center. They will then initiate a case for the individual and they will have to undergo consular processing through the National Visa Center and the consulate or embassy in their home country. One important thing to remember is that an individual can apply for a U visa from abroad, but they have to have been the victim of a crime in the United States or one of the outlying territories in order to qualify.

Law Enforcement Certification

In some jurisdictions, getting the law enforcement certification signed is a really straightforward process. Essentially, the individual submits every application to the same person and there is a standard procedure in place to evaluate these applications. That is more common in places where they receive a lot of these applications, and it is increasingly common as the U visa becomes a more typical form of relief. But someone may be applying in an area where law enforcement officers are not as familiar with the application process, and this may mean that their attorney needs to educate the law enforcement agency on what the U visa is and why the law enforcement official has authority to sign. It is important to submit as much information as possible and make sure that the attorney is familiar with any procedures that are already in place within whatever jurisdiction they are applying.

The U Visa Cap

The U visa cap means that only 10,000 U visas are available for the US government to issue every year. That just includes the principle applicants—not derivative applicants—but it means that now that there are more than 10,000 principle applicants applying per year, there is a backlog. USCIS will still evaluate a case within the typical timeframe, which is generally between 10 and 13 months. But if they approve the person’s case and the government has already hit the 10,000 cap for that year, then they will send them a letter stating that they have evaluated their case and believe that they are eligible, but there are no visas available.

With this letter, the individual can apply for a work authorization and something called deferred action status. It is the same status that people who are in DACA status will apply for. They will be granted a work authorization while they await the availability of new visas. In practical terms, this means they are here legally, but they do not begin to accrue the time needed to apply for lawful permanent residency. In order to become a legal permanent resident, they need to have three years of continuous physical presence in the US as a U visa holder before they are eligible to apply, and that time does not begin to accrue until they actually get their U visa.

Applying for an Extension

U visa extensions generally are not granted. A U visa is only valid for four years, and an individual cannot apply to extend the U visa itself. The only way they can apply for an extension is to extend the deferred action status that they were placed into while waiting for their U visa to be issued. Once they have their U visa, there will not be any option for extension. Between year three and year four of being in U visa status, it is incredibly important that they remember to apply for residency. Otherwise, their status will expire.

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