If you have been a victim of a certain crime and you have been helpful and cooperating in the criminal investigation with law enforcement, you may be eligible to apply for temporary legal status (through a “U” Visa) to stay in the United States. Certain immediate family members of the victim may also benefit from this process.
You may also apply for U visa status if you are outside of the U.S. This type of relief, if the individual is approved, will usually have a broader ability to overcome grounds that would otherwise make you inadmissible to the United States.
In order to be eligible, the applicant must have been the victim of one or more of the following crimes: Abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, or any other similar criminal activity were the elements of the crime are extensively similar.
Additionally, you will need to demonstrate that you were or will be helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution. Your cooperation will ultimately be evidenced by the law enforcement agency signing off on a certification regarding the same. Additionally, the victim would need to show that he/she has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of that crime or criminal activity. Finally, the crime or criminal activity for which the person was a victim of, just have occurred in the U.S.
The U visa is a very detailed and long process, even after the application has been submitted. There is a yearly limit on the number of U visas that can be given and that is 10,000. Once this cap has been reached, the application will be placed on a waiting list for once a visa is available. A person is able to be placed on this waiting list if a person is determined by an immigration officer to meet the basic U visa eligibility requirements.
If a person is placed on this waiting list, they are eligible for deferred action and work authorization. Deferred action is not a legal status, but it temporarily allows the individual to remain in the U.S. and not be removed from this country. Currently, it is taking approximately 4-5 years after submitting a U visa application before a person may be approved for deferred action. Overall, it may take many years before a decision on a U visa application can be approved. Additionally, once a person is granted his or her U visa status, they are eligible to obtain employment authorization, as well as temporary authorization to remain in the U.S. If an individual is granted U visa status, he or she may later be eligible to apply to adjust to a permanent resident if he or she meets other additional criteria.
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY – SACRAMENTO
Crystal Cortez is an associate attorney with the Sacramento office of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC. Ms. Cortez earned her juris doctorate at Atlanta’s John Marshall law School and is admitted to the Georgia bar. She is licensed to practice immigration throughout the United States. She has experience in representing clients on family-based immigration cases as well as removal defense in immigration court.
As a child of immigrant parents, she saw the struggles that her parents experienced as non-English speakers and the challenges in navigating through the U.S. immigration system. Her experience has allowed her to help her clients through this complex system. Prior to joining W & O, Ms. Cortez worked at several small law firms practicing mostly immigration in Georgia before moving back to California.
During her free time, Ms. Cortes enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and children. She also enjoys cooking and playing piano.