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Understanding the U visa and your rights

You had been living in the United States for several years when you witnessed a violent crime in front of you. The person committing the crime saw you, and you quickly became a part of the attack. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but now you have an opportunity to help and get something beneficial in return.

Immigrants who are victims of crimes have an opportunity to obtain a green card called a U visa. The U visa is granted to certain foreign nationals who have been victims of crimes listed by the U.S. government. To get a U visa, you will also have to meet other eligibility requirements, but the primary requirement is that you must have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and be helpful to the prosecution in a criminal case in the United States.

Here's another example. If you are visiting the United States an are abducted and injured but can help the prosecution convict the offender, you may have a right to a U visa. The U visa opportunity extends to your family members including your children, parents and siblings. Keep in mind that you will need to help the prosecution until your U visa application is approved. Until that time, you must be compliant and helpful to the prosecution or investigators.

How do you become eligible for a U visa?

First, you'll need to show that you were lawfully admitted into the United States with U-1 nonimmigrant status. Then, you'll have to show that you've lived in the U.S. for at least three years since the date of admission. This time must be continuous.

You'll need to be willing to provide assistance to investigators and prosecutors for the qualifying criminal activity in your case. There are other eligibility requirements to meet as well, depending on your situation. For most people, helping the prosecutors could mean identifying the person who committed the crime, giving details of the crime or standing as a witness.

Is anyone inadmissible under this visa's requirements?

Most people have eligibility, but anyone who participated in genocide, Nazi persecution, torture or extrajudicial killings will not be eligible to apply for the U visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) retains the right to deny any application, or to accept any application, based on the individual specifics of the case.

These are a few things to consider about a U visa. It is an opportunity to stay in the United States and should be sought if you have been a victim of a crime.

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