U & T Visas

If you or a loved one has been the victim of certain crimes, you may have the opportunity to live safely in the United States while justice is pursued. In order to make it possible for victims to come to, or stay in the United States while working with law enforcement, Congress has created two special immigration statuses: U visas and T visas.

The U nonimmigrant visa is designed specifically for victims of certain crimes that has caused them to have suffered abuse (either mental or physical). The second one is the T nonimmigrant visa is to help those who have been victims of human trafficking. Both of these types of visas are there so that the victims can remain protected and available while working with law enforcement on their case.

Applying for the U Nonimmigrant Visa

In order to apply for a U nonimmigrant visa, you must meet some very specific requirements. First, you must be the victim of a qualifying criminal activity. There many eligible crimes, some of which are domestic violence, stalking, abusive sexual contact, female genital mutilation, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation, torture and witness tampering.

Second, you must have suffered abuse physically, mentally or both as a result of the crime, and you also need to have information about the crime that took place. In some cases, a parent or friend may possess and provide the information if you are unable to due to injury, disability or if you are under 16 years of age.

Third, you also need to be helpful, or be believed likely to be helpful to the law enforcement agencies in apprehending and convicting the individual or individuals responsible for the crime. A critical part of the U visa application process is obtaining the law enforcement certification where law enforcement, judges or prosecutors state that you will or have cooperated with the investigation and prosecution of the offender. This certification is required and often difficult to obtain.

Finally, the crime must have taken place in the United States, or violated US law. This can include any territories owned by the US, such as Puerto Rico.

Applying for the T Nonimmigrant Visa

In order to be able to apply for a T visa you must be a victim of human trafficking, as defined by US law. You must be in the United States or a US territory as a result of the trafficking. In addition, you need to be willing and able to assist law enforcement with their investigation. Unlike the U visa, a law enforcement certification is not mandatory. You may also qualify if you can demonstrate that being removed from the United States would result in extreme hardship or direct harm. In both cases, you also must not be disqualified from remaining in the United States due to other unrelated circumstances.

Who can apply?

In most situations the victim of the crime or trafficking will be the one to apply for the proper visa. They can, however, can include family members, called derivatives, when applicable. Adult victims, age 21 and older, can apply for their spouses, children, siblings who are unmarried and under 18. If you are under 21 years old, you can apply for derivative visa status for your parents and unmarried siblings under 18.

There are broad waiver provisions for victims who also face inadmissibility issues. Inadmissibility means the reason or reasons why the US government won’t allow you to enter the US. These reasons could be that you have a health issue that easily passes from one to another, such as TB. A waiver is a process that allows you to ask the US government not to hold something against you. For example, if you were inadmissible because you crossed the US border illegally –  without inspection (“EWI”) – you can request the US government ignore this fact and review your application on the merits. Through a specific form, victims can request as many waivers as they need. This is a simplified process that other waivers applicants file.

How Long Can You Stay?

Unlike many other nonimmigrant visas, U and T visa recipients have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. The T visa initially allows victims to stay in the US up to three years. For U visa recipients, the initial period is four years. All of those who received these visas are eligible to adjust their status to resident. To qualify for residency, U or T visa applicants must qualify:

  • Be physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years.
  • Maintain good moral character during your stay in the United States.
  • Have complied with any reasonable request for assistance in investigation or prosecution or demonstrate extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal from the United States.
  • Be admissible to the United States, or obtain a waiver of admissibility.

If you have any questions about whether you qualify for either of these two types of visas, or you need help applying for them, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our skilled immigration legal team will be happy to help you.

Swenson Law Office, PC

5161 E. Arapahoe Rd., Suite 120