To encourage the reporting of crimes within the immigrant community in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S., the federal government has established a special type of non-immigrant visa called a U-visa. This visa allows certain crime victims and informants who are helpful to law enforcement officers to remain in the U.S. for up to four years. People who remain in the U.S. on U-visa status for at least three years and who have been helpful to law enforcement in prosecuting the crimes may be eligible to petition for green cards to become U.S. residents.
Eligibility for U-visas
To be eligible, people must either be the victim of a qualifying crime or a person who has information about the offense. They must have also suffered substantial physical or mental abuse because of the criminal activity and help the police and prosecutors who investigate the crime and prosecute the defendants who committed it. Finally, the crime must have happened within the U.S., and the people must either be admissible to the U.S. or secure waivers of inadmissibility.
Benefits of U-visas
People who are granted U-visas will be allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to four years as long as they continue to help law enforcement with their investigations and prosecutions. During this period, they will also be authorized to work. U-visa applicants can submit petitions on behalf of their immediate family members to remain with them in the U.S. After remaining in the U.S. for three years, a U-visa holder can petition the USCIS for a green card.
People who are the victims of qualifying crimes and who are undocumented may want to talk to experienced immigration law attorneys for advice on how to handle their situations. An attorney might facilitate the client’s talking to the police and work to help file a petition for a U-visa. If the petition is granted, the attorney might later help the client to file a petition for a green card as long as the U-visa holder has continued to cooperate with law enforcement and meets the other requirements.