A U-Visa is a non-immigrant visa that can be converted to a green card. It is for victims of certain qualifying crimes (usually violent crimes) who report it to law enforcement, cooperate if asked to, and are harmed in some way. Some examples of the violent crimes that qualify for this are felony assaults, kidnapping, sex crimes, and crimes of domestic violence. To process a U-Visa, it takes a long amount of time, as it requires that a certification be signed by the law enforcement agency and the government has a several-year backlog. The process for making the request for a certification varies from the police department to the district attorney to family court judges.
The public policy behind U-Visas is to encourage non-citizens and those most often lacking confidence in the police, to report crimes. A successful U-Visa applicant who is a minor can include their parents and siblings. An adult can include their spouse and children under 21. There is a waiver with U-Visas for almost every ground of inadmissibility (criminal, fraud, deportation order, unlawful entry into the U.S.). The only individuals who are not eligible for the U-Visa are Nazis, terrorists, and others who may pose a threat to national security.
Within the last year or so, the initial processing times for U-Visa petitions have continued to increase. Initial processing times have now increased to almost three years or longer. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Processing Times Report, USCIS is reportedly currently working on U-Visa petitions (Form I-918) that were filed in August 2014 or earlier. However, these processing times vary, depending on the individual circumstances.
To help address the problem, USCIS has assigned more officers to work on the U-Visa petition workload. Immigration attorneys are hopeful that these changes will help decrease processing times. However, most U-Visa applicants feel neglected, as their cases have lingered for so long.
Despite wanting to speed up the process, USCIS is still requiring detailed and time-consuming requests for evidence on almost every U-Visa case. This includes evidence of the crime actually occurring, which can add to the total time to process the petition. Often, these requests for evidence require additional information from the certifying law enforcement agency. In other cases, they include challenges as to whether the officer who certified was authorized to do so. The assumed reason for the requests for evidence serves as an attempt to limit the amount of successful U-Visa recipients. To add to the stress of applying for a U-Visa petition, if you do not respond to a request for evidence promptly or your response is inadequate, your case will be denied.
If you or a loved one is a non-citizen who was a victim of a previous violent crime and are seeking to obtain a U-Visa, it is imperative that you consult an experienced New York immigration lawyer who can advise you of your legal rights and help you find available pathways to citizenship. The New York immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP have years of experience representing clients in complex immigration cases. With two immigration law offices located in New York City and Clark, New Jersey, the firm’s attorneys are available to assist individuals throughout the tri-state area with their immigration matters. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New York City immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form.