Immigration Document Can Help Protect Foreign Workers in America
Foreign nationals working in the United States can often be at risk of exploitation or unfair treatment by an employer. A boss may violate wage and hour laws, equal employment requirements, or other workplace rights, threatening to withdraw privileges or otherwise put the worker’s residency status in jeopardy. Under U.S. immigration laws, such actions by an employer are illegal and may violate criminal laws. When that happens, a worker may have access to additional protection through the acquisition of a U visa.
What Is a U Visa?
The U nonimmigrant visa, created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, is available to foreign nationals who have been victims of certain crimes involving physical or mental abuse. The recipient of a U visa can obtain lawful residency status in the United States for up to four years and may be eligible for an adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident after only three years. A U visa can also provide work authorization and may offer attendant benefits to qualifying members of the victim’s family.
What Is the Purpose of a U Visa?
The primary objective of the U visa is to provide protection to individuals who have been subjected to domestic abuse or other violent crimes in their countries of origin. However, in the statute creating the U visa, Congress explicitly stated that the visa is also intended to protect individuals who have been subjected to certain work-related crimes.
What Are the Conditions for Eligibility for a U Visa?
To qualify for a U nonimmigrant visa, an applicant must meet the following requirements:
- The applicant must have been subjected to mental or physical abuse as a victim of a qualifying criminal act, such as abduction, extortion, false imprisonment, rape, sexual assault, or stalking (a complete list is available on the USCIS website);
- The worker must have provided authorities with information or evidence related to the wrongful criminal act;
- The applicant must have voluntarily assisted or aided in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
- The alleged criminal act must be in violation of state, local, or federal law, or must have occurred within the borders of the United States.
How Do You Apply for a U Nonimmigrant Visa?
To petition the United States government for a U visa, you must complete and submit the Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918). If you want qualified members of your family to secure any of the benefits of the visa, you must also complete Supplement A to Form I-918, the Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient. A governmental entity must also submit Supplement B to Form I-918, certifying that you met the requirements set forth in the statute. You must also provide a personal statement that includes a narrative of the crimes you suffered, as well as any information about subsequent injuries, police reports, medical records, and court documents.
How Long Does It Take to Get a U Nonimmigrant Visa?
The process can be lengthy, often taking as long as 10 years. As a general rule, it can take more than four years simply to fully process your application. Furthermore, there’s an annual cap of 10,000 U Nonimmigrant visas issued, so you may meet all the requirements but still have to wait for eligibility. You can, however, have the USCIS grant “deferred action” on your visa application, allowing you to obtain work authorization in the United States until your U visa is issued.
If you have been the victim of certain crimes of violence, either in your home country or in the United States, you and members of your family may be eligible for a U Nonimmigrant visa, which can give you temporary lawful residency status in the United States for up to four years. The U Nonimmigrant visa may also qualify you to seek permanent lawful residency status, once you have been in the United States for three years. The process for obtaining a U Nonimmigrant visa can be lengthy, though, often taking more than ten years.