If you are a noncitizen victim of a violent crime, including domestic violence, you do not have to rely on your abusive spouse or partner for citizenship. You have other options, one of which is U-visa status.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sets aside U-visas specifically for victims of certain types of crime. These victims typically suffer physical or mental abuse and are willing to help government officials or law enforcement prosecute or investigate the criminal activity. The purpose of the legislation is to help law enforcement investigate and/or prosecute criminal activity such as sexual assault, trafficking and domestic violence.
Eligibility criteria for U-visa status
To qualify for U-visa status, you must meet specific eligibility criteria. The first and most obvious is that you are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity. The second is that, as a result of your victimization, you sustained substantial physical or mental harm. The perpetrator must have committed the crime on U.S. soil.
It is not enough to be a victim of violence, however. You must also have substantial information regarding the criminal activity and its perpetrators, and you must be willing to share this information with authorities. If you are under the age of 16, or if you are unable to communicate with the authorities for any reason, you must have a parent, guardian or friend who can assist law enforcement on your behalf.
Finally, you must be admissible to the United States. If you are not, you must apply for and receive approval for a waiver of inadmissibility.
Qualifying criminal activities
The first qualifying factor mentions a qualifying criminal activity. The USCIS details dozens of qualifying criminal activities. Some may that apply to your situation are as follows:
- Domestic violence
- Abusive sexual contact
- Sexual assault
- Female genitalia mutilation
- Involuntary servitude
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you are the victim of a violent crime, chances are that the crime against you makes the list.
Qualifying for any type of visa in the United States is, unfortunately, not easy. Get the guidance and advocacy you need at this very difficult time in your life. Work with an experienced immigration lawyer.