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    What Steps Should U Visa Applicants Take to Ensure Approval Across States?

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    4 Steps for Getting a U Visa Approved

    Victims of crimes often face difficult situations that can have a life-long impact, and it can be challenging for them to get away from the criminals, especially if the victim doesn’t have independent legal status in the United States. A U visa is a nonimmigrant status visa that is available for those who have been victims of criminal activity. The number of U visas that are approved is limited to 10,000 per year, so it’s important to do everything you can to increase your chances of getting your application approved.

    1. Talk to an Immigration Attorney

    Before you apply for any visa, it’s important to discuss your situation and your long-term goals with an immigration attorney. If you are a crime victim, it is even more critical to ensure you understand your options and responsibilities and have a plan for your safety. An immigration attorney can help you determine if you meet the requirements for a U visa and provide advice on what evidence to submit to increase your chances of approval.

    2. Ensure You Meet the Eligibility Requirements

    There are very specific eligibility requirements for the U visa. First, you must be a victim of a qualifying crime. These are generally serious — and often violent — crimes. Some examples include murder, rape, sexual assault, stalking, kidnapping, and torture. However, other crimes such as domestic violence, incest, female genital mutilation, and slave trade also qualify.

    In addition to being a victim, you must be able to show that you experienced significant harm — either physical or mental — as a result of the criminal activity. Physical harm can be proven through medical records, photographs, and similar evidence, but mental harm can be harder to establish. Records from mental health care can be helpful, but you can also submit a personal statement detailing the criminal activity, how you were a victim, and how it has impacted you.

    The third main requirement for a U visa is that you have relevant information about the criminal activity and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement. The goal is always for the perpetrators of the criminal activity to be caught and appropriately charged. While this doesn’t always happen, victims play an important role in helping law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution stages. Cooperating with law enforcement can include providing information such as where and when the criminal activity took place and who was involved. If you are a minor under the age of 16, a parent, legal guardian, or other person may be able to provide information to law enforcement for you.

    3. Submit Your Application

    To apply for a U visa, you will need to submit Form I-918, the Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, and all of your supporting documentation to the Nebraska Service Center of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. You must also include the signed Supplement B form, which is what the law enforcement agency representative signs to show that you are cooperating or have information that would be helpful to the investigation. You will also need to have fingerprinting done at the closest Consulate or U.S. Embassy. If your application is approved, you will need to have an interview with a consular officer before the process can be finalized.

    4. Provide Any Follow-Up Information

    Unfortunately, applying for a U visa is just the first step, and it can take years for a U visa application to be processed and approved. In some cases, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office may request more information or documentation about your application. It’s important to submit his information as quickly as possible to avoid delays.

    Because the processing times for this visa are so long, it’s possible to be given deferred action while you wait. This ensures that you aren’t subject to removal proceedings. In some cases, you may also be able to get a work permit so that you can start supporting yourself. Your immigration attorney can help you understand what options and services are available to you as you wait for your U visa application to be processed.

    How Long Is a U Visa Valid For?

    U visas are granted for a period of four years. While it is possible to get an extension, these are generally limited to specific circumstances, such as delays in consular processing or a request from the law enforcement agency. If you believe that you will need an extension, it’s important to apply for this well in advance of when your visa is set to expire. It can take several months for extension requests to be reviewed.

    Can I Apply for a Green Card?

    Current holders of U visas are able to apply for a Green Card if they have been continuously physically present in the United States for at least three years. This means that you must have been in the United States for at least 18 months out of the past three years, and you usually have to have been in the United States for the three months before your adjustment of status application. To apply for a Green Card, you must also have provided reasonable assistance to law enforcement under the terms of your U visa.

    A U visa can be a viable option for those who have been victims of criminal activity and are willing and able to help law enforcement. But it’s important to be aware of the requirements for this visa and the processing times before applying. Call (616) 530-0101 to speak to one of the immigration attorneys at Elizabeth Rosario Law PLC for more information.

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