U Visas and T Visas in Los Angeles
Immigrants who are victims of crimes or trafficking may have options for obtaining temporary immigration status in the United States through the U visa and the T visa, respectively. For more information about U visas and T visas, please contact me, Los Angeles, California, immigration lawyer Gita P. Kapur.
U Visas for Victims of Crime
The U visa is a temporary visa, typically lasting a period of four years, available to individuals who are the victims of certain crimes. The U visa allows an individual to live and work in the U.S. The victim must cooperate with law enforcement and government officials in the investigation of the crime and/or prosecution of the individual who is accused. Family members may also be included on the petition including spouses, children, unmarried sisters and brothers under 18, mothers, fathers, as well as stepparents and adoptive parents. An approved U visa petition will automatically grant the applicant work eligibility in the United States. An Employment Authorization Document will be included with all approved petitions, which can be shown to any employer to obtain a Social Security Number to start work legally. Currently all U visa applications are filed at the Vermont Service Center.
U Visa Application: An application for the U visa is filed with Form I-918, and there are different requirements that must be satisfied before an application can be submitted. The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to a criminal activity in at least one of the following categories: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, hostage situations, peonage, false imprisonment, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.
Approximately 10,000 U visas are issued every year. If you are interested in seeking a U visa, and if you are interested in learning about options for including family members on the petition, talk to an immigration lawyer.
How do I apply for a U Visa?
The immigrant must first obtain a law enforcement certification before filing a Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918). All U visas must be filed with Immigration at the Vermont Service Center.
What is a law enforcement certification?
An immigrant who is the victim of one of the listed crimes must obtain a certification from a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, or a prosecutor, judge or other authority, which is responsible for the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor can also issue a certification.
Is there a form for the law enforcement certification?
Yes. The U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918, Supplement B) is a USCIS form which must be completed and signed by the agency or authority responsible for the investigation or prosecution.
Can anyone who is employed by the agency or authority responsible for the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying crime complete and sign the Form I-918?
No. The person completing and signing the I-918 must either be: (1) the head of the agency; or (2) a supervisor designated by the agency and authorized to issue a certification on behalf of the agency.
Can an immigrant who is now outside the United States but was the victim of a qualifying crime that occurred while the immigrant was in the United States apply for a U visa?
Yes. Immigrants, who are victims of a qualifying crime, and their family members, can apply for a U visa either from outside the United States, as long as the qualifying crime was committed while the immigrant was in the United States. The immigrant and family members will file for the U visa with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the immigrant’s country.
Is a family member of a U visa applicant also eligible to apply for a U visa?
A family member of a U visa applicant cannot apply for a U visa on his or her own behalf. However, the U visa applicant can file a petition on behalf of the family member if: (1) the U visa applicant is less than 21 years of age the applicant can file for their spouse, children, unmarried siblings under 18 and parents; or (2) the U visa applicant is 21 or older the applicant can file for their spouse and the applicant’s children. The applicant must file Form I-918, Supplement A, for their qualifying family members.
Is there a limit on the number of U Visa Immigration can approve?
Immigration may grant no more than 10,000 U visas in any fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). The limit does not apply to spouses, children, parents, and unmarried siblings who are accompanying or following to join the principal alien victim.
If the cap is reached in any fiscal year before all petitions are adjudicated, Immigration will create a waiting list. Applicants placed on the waiting list will be given deferred action (they will be eligible to apply for employment authorization and permitted to travel) until their petitions can be adjudicated after the start of the following fiscal year.
How long can an immigrant have a U Visa?
U visa status cannot exceed four years. After three years an immigrant in U visa status can apply for adjustment of status (green card).
Can an immigrant granted U visa status eventually apply for permanent resident status (green card)?
Yes. The immigrant must have been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of issuance of the U visa. In addition, Immigration must determine that the immigrant’s continued presence in the United States should be granted on humanitarian grounds in order to keep family unity, or is otherwise in the best interest of the public.
Is there a deadline for submitting a U visa petition?
There is no deadline for immigrants who are applying for U visa relief now. However, there is a deadline of April 14, 2008 for immigrants who have already been granted interim relief to file an application for U visa status under the permanent rules.
Are there filing fees for the U Visa?
No. There is no filing fee for applicants for the U visa or qualifying family members. However, applicants and qualifying family members must pay the fingerprinting fee for each person ages 14-79 included with each petition. The fingerprinting fee is currently $80 per person. Petitioners who are financially unable to pay the fingerprinting services fee may submit an application for a fee waiver.
I was granted interim U visa relief prior to the enactment of final regulation, do I need to file an application now?
Yes. Immigrants granted interim U visa relief should complete and file Form I-918 prior to April 14, 2008. However, an immigrant granted interim relief does not have to file I-918, Supplement B (certification from a qualifying agency).
I am the victim of a crime with a deportation order issued by Immigration. Can I apply for a U-Visa?
Yes. You are still eligible to apply for a U-Visa even if you have a deportation order.
Once the U visa is approved you will need to file a motion to reopen the deportation order with the Immigration Court. Alternatively, if you are about to be ordered deported you must file a Stay to the deportation.
T Visas for Victims of Trafficking
The T visa is available to individuals who have been a victim of trafficking and who comply with the investigation of the trafficking or related crime. The T visa is a temporary visa that typically lasts for a period of four years, allowing an individual to live and work in the U.S. The children, spouse, and family members of a T visa holder can also apply for a T visa as a derivative.
There are approximately 5,000 visas available in this category. An individual seeking one of these visas must get certification. Without, he or she cannot apply. Talk to an immigration lawyer for more information on T visa certification.
Contact a Los Angeles U Visa Attorney/T Visa Attorney
My legal services are competitively priced, and I offer payment plans to clients in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, including Long Beach, Pasadena, San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Ana, and Palmdale who qualify.
We speak a variety of languages to ease the process for our immigrant clients, including Spanish, Hindi, Punjabi, Zapotec, Armenian, Urdu, and Nepali.