U visas are a form of relief for persons who have been victims of a crime, and who have contacted the police for help. A U visa is a very generous form of legalizing status. Common bars, such as prior removals, deportation orders, and certain crimes and misdemeanors, can oftentimes be overcome with a U visa. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the U visa. It does not matter how long ago the crime happened. It does matter if the crime was never reported to the police. It does matter if the victim refused to press charges, or refused to go to court. The spirit of the U is to encourage undocumented persons to contact the police without fear of removal.
We prepare a significant about of U visas. Because there are only 10,000 U visas available per year, there is a long waiting list. It currently can take about two years to obtain a U visa. U visas take approximately four-five months of preparation. If the case is approved, but no visas are available, the applicant can apply for a work permit while waiting for a visa. Travel is risky and not recommended even when the U visa is granted. Permanent residence is available three years after the U is granted. Once a U visa is granted, the applicant can apply to bring in his or her children who live outside of the United States, provided they are single and were under the age of 21 when the U visa case was filed.
To determine eligibility, a client must contact the attorney and come in with the police report of the crime. The attorney sends the police report with a form to the police station or district attorney having jurisdiction over the place the crime occurred. The attorney requests the responsible authority to certify the application. If certified, the client can then apply for a U visa. The first step is obtaining law enforcement approval. In some high crime areas it can take three to four months to obtain a response from the authorities. This is often the biggest challenge, since the police/district attorney can often be too busy to respond quickly.
It is one of our favorite forms of relief. It often gives hope to a client who was barred from any other form of relief due to prior removals, repeated entries across the border, or certain crimes. It reunites families separated for years. It is safe, because the client is not in removal proceedings and does not have an immigration interview.