up button arrow

Texas U Visa Immigration Attorney

Getting a U Visa in Texas can be daunting. The process involved is complex. As such, it is advisable for immigrants who want to get a U Visa to seek the expertise of an immigration attorney. This would help them understand what a U visa is, the process involved in applying for and getting the visa, the challenges and possibilities of getting a U visa, the documents they would need, and other requirements. Speaking to an attorney with expertise and experience in helping immigrants get a U Visa can be crucial to the U visa application outcome. A U-visa attorney specializes in:

  • Ensuring that the crime the victim suffered or the immigrant witnessed falls under the category of crimes that renders a person eligible for a U Visa because not all crimes give eligibility for a U Visa.
  •  Helping an eligible victim with the application for their U Visa, ensuring that the victim meets all the requirements. A victim’s family may also be eligible, and an experienced attorney can help with the application.
  • Assisting a non-citizen to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility if they have a criminal past or have been served a deportation order.
  • An attorney can help a victim avoid mistakes during the application process and gather evidence necessary to prove that the victim is eligible for a U Visa.

It is advisable for non-citizens seeking a U Visa to get in touch with an immigration attorney and get information and guidance that might be crucial to their situation. It is important to consider a U visa attorney as soon as practicable, considering certain deadlines may apply for submitting certain documents, such as the law enforcement certification. Non-citizens in Texas looking for immigration attorneys can get recommendations from the Texas State Law Library

If an individual is not sure if their situation falls under the criteria for U visa eligibility, they can schedule a consultation with a qualified attorney to provide some legal guidance. Here is some information to know about U Visa.

What is U Visa?

The U immigrant status (U Visa or Victim visa) is a type of visa given to immigrants who fall under a specific category. However, it is not an immigration visa. U Visas are specifically for victims of crimes that either took place in the United States or violated U.S. laws. To get a U nonimmigrant status, eligible victims must petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Law enforcement authorities must also certify that the victim has been, is being, or is likely to be of assistance with investigating or prosecuting the crime.

The U.S. Congress created the U visa by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000. The intent behind this law was to strengthen the cooperation of non-citizens with law enforcement agencies in their investigation and prosecution of crimes. This would be accomplished by allowing victims to report crimes without fear of deportation due to their legal status. The primary requirements for the U visa include:

  • The applicant must be a victim of a qualifying crime.
  • The crime must have resulted in physical or emotional abuse on the victim.
  • The victim must provide credible and reliable information about the criminal activity to the law enforcement agencies.
  • The crime occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws.
  • The victim has been, is being, or is likely to assist the law enforcement authorities in investigating and prosecuting the criminal activity.

Not all crimes are considered qualifying crimes for the U visa. Some of the crimes that qualify a victim for a U visa include:

  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Murder
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter, amongst others.

It also includes an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the qualifying crimes. Asides from victims, certain family members may be eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship with the victim. The victim’s petition for a U visa must have been approved before their family member can be eligible for a derivative U visa.

What are the Benefits of a U Visa?

The U visa legislation helps law enforcement agencies reduce criminal activities and better serve victims of crimes by eliminating the fear of reporting crimes due to the legal status of a person. It is also beneficial to victims in the following ways:

  • Granting the victims lawful residency for up to 4 years.
  • Victims would also get work authorization.
  • Derivative benefits would accrue for qualifying family members for the period up to the expiration of the principal U visa.
  • Victims would also have eligibility to adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident after three years.
  • Derivative U visa holders are also eligible for employment authorization.
  • They become legal non-immigrants entitled to have a driver’s license, open a bank account and enroll in an academic or vocational study. 

How Long are U Visas Valid for?

U visas are valid for a maximum of 4 years, starting from when the petition is granted and stamped on the applicant’s passport. During the four years, the applicant is permitted to live and work in the U.S. as a non-immigrant. After three years, the  U visa holder may apply for a Green card if they have met the requirements such as total cooperation with the law enforcement agencies. The victim may request an extension of the visa from the USCIS when the non-immigrant status is close to its expiration date. However, getting an extension would depend on the following reasons:

  • The status holder is needed based on a request from the law enforcement agency.
  • The holder is needed based on exceptional circumstances.
  • The holder is needed due to a delay in consular processing.

The status can be automatically extended upon the filing and pendency of an application for adjustment of status/ application for a Green card.

Additionally, suppose derivative U visa holders could not enter the U.S. early enough due to delays in consular processes. In that case, they are eligible for an extension of their status beyond the expiration date given to the principal, provided that the extension is necessary to accrue three years for adjustment of status.

What is the Difference Between T Visa and U Visa?

Both the T and the U visas were created by congress to foster cooperation with law enforcement agencies on criminal activities. They each have specified qualifying crimes and help the victims gain a non-immigrant status. However, they are not the same. The evidence required to prove eligibility for a U visa application differs from the requirement for a T visa application. Also, a victim can apply for a U visa outside the U.S. but cannot do so for a T visa. Although human trafficking is one of the qualifying crimes for U visas, T visas are specifically created to protect human trafficking victims. In other words, while the U visa is meant for victims of qualifying severe crimes, the T visa can only be issued to victims of human trafficking. To qualify as a victim eligible for the T visa, the victim’s situation must fall under the definition of human trafficking:

  • Process of trafficking – This focuses on how the victim arrived in the U.S. and should include  either recruitment, transportation, transferring, harboring, or receiving someone against their will.
  • Means of trafficking should include coercion, deception, threat, fraud, abduction, and deceit.
  • The goal of trafficking is why the victim was trafficked and should include forced labor,  prostitution, violence, pornography, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, or slavery.

Sometimes a victim can be eligible for both a U visa and a T visa, and there might be complexity or confusion as to which to apply for. If faced with such a challenge, it is advisable to contact an immigration attorney.

What Needs to Be Included in My U Visa Application?

Victims of qualifying crimes who wish to apply for U visas must prepare the following for their application:

  • A USCIS Form I-918, which is available for free download on the I-918 page of the USCIS website.

  • A USCIS Form I-918, Supplement B, completed and certified by a qualifying law enforcement agency, would show that the victim has information about the crime that would be useful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal act by enforcement agencies. 

  • A USCIS Form I-918, Supplement A for victims who are also applying for derivative status for qualifying family members.

  • A Personal statement explaining the circumstances surrounding the crime and how the victim became involved. This would be submitted to the USCIS to prove how the victim meets the requirement for a U visa.

  • Any evidence that shows that the applicant is a victim of a qualifying criminal activity. This could include trial transcripts, affidavits, police reports, restraining orders, and other similar documents.

  • Evidence that shows that the victim has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse. This could include medical personnel and police statements, photographs of injuries, and affidavits from other people who have personal knowledge of the crime.

  • Victims must also prepare a Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, if applicable. To request a waiver, victims must submit to USCIS a Form I-192.

  • Information to prove the victim’s relationship with their derivative family members, such as birth or marriage certificates. 

  • Victims whose derivative family members wish to work and currently reside in the U.S. must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.). 

It is advisable to contact an immigration attorney to avoid unnecessary delays or providing incomplete information while filling out the application that could lead to a denial of the application.

What Happens if My U Visa is Denied?

If USCIS denies a U visa, the victim’s legal status will remain what it was before the application for the U visa. A non-citizen whose U visa petition is denied could be processed for removal if they have no legal basis to remain. However, refusing a U visa would not automatically trigger a removal process, although it is possible that a removal process would commence due to the application’s information. Victims whose application has been denied can reapply for the U visa, provided additional information or supporting documentation is submitted. This may further demonstrate the applicant’s qualification for a U visa. U visa denials can be appealed only to the Administrative Appeals Office (A.A.O.) of USCIS. The procedures for the appeal are outlined in 8 C.F.R. § 103.3.7. Victims are advised to seek the expertise of an immigration lawyer to help them with available options if their U visa is denied.