U Visa Processing Time
A visa is an official document that permits immigrants to stay in the US for a certain amount of time or under certain conditions. There are a wide range of visas that can be applied for a variety of purposes. If you’re looking into obtaining a visa, it’s important to apply for the one that best suits your circumstances. This will give you the highest chance of being approved to stay in the US.
The U visa is a special type of visa that’s designed to help noncitizens who fall victim to certain crimes. Immigrants can apply for the U visa if they were the victim of a qualifying crime that resulted in mental and physical damage, among other qualifications. With a U visa, immigrants can cooperate with law enforcement and bring the offender to justice without having to worry about deportation.
How long does it take to process a U visa?
Like many of the other available visas, U visa processing times can be long. In most cases, long wait times are an unfortunate reality when dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department.
After you submit your application, the U visa waiting time can range between 12 to 18 months. However, this process can be prolonged if you fail to correctly fill out the application or are required to submit additional documentation. This is why it’s a good idea to work with a U visa lawyer who can walk you through the application process and ensure that all of the proper documentation has been submitted by crucial deadlines.
How do I qualify for the U visa?
The U visa is designed for those who are victims of crime in the US. Yet, not every crime will qualify you for a U visa. Refer to the following lists for crimes that can qualify you for a U visa:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Felonious assault
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Related crimes
While these crimes themselves can qualify you for a U visa, they don’t necessarily have to be committed. An attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above crimes can also potentially qualify you for a U visa.
How long is the U visa valid for?
After your visa application has been approved and your passport has been stamped, your U visa will last for a maximum of four years. During those four years where you hold a valid U visa, you can live and work in the US.
It’s important to remember that your U visa status is temporary. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee a path to a green card or full citizenship. When your U visa is close to expiring, you can fill out Form I-539 to request an extension from USCIS. This extension being granted is far from guaranteed and will be based on factors such as:
- Law enforcement needing additional information from you
- Your involvement in a case with exceptional circumstances
- Delays in consular processing
While you reside in the US with your U visa, it may be a good idea to explore potential pathways to a green card or citizenship if you wish to remain in the country. Filling out a green card application can be a complex and time-consuming process, so it’s best to get started early. You may also want to work with a visa lawyer to minimize errors in your application and increase the likelihood your application is approved.
What are the benefits of the U visa?
Obtaining a U visa provides you with a number of benefits and privileges not afforded to immigrants who are in the US illegally. With a valid U visa, you can legally live in the country as a non-immigrant. A U visa also allows you to:
- Legally work in the US
- Get a driver’s license
- Open a bank account
- Enroll in academic programs
Immigrants who unlawfully reside in the US aren’t able to take advantage of any of the above benefits. With a U visa, you can rest easy without the fear of being targeted and pursued by immigration enforcement agencies.
How to apply for the U visa?
Although the application process for any visa can be intimidating, it’s important to be familiar with the steps in order to avoid applying for the wrong visa or making mistakes on your application. If you’re hoping to apply for a U visa, the process is generally as follows:
- Cooperate with law enforcement in their investigation. If you were the target of a crime, you can obtain victim status, which is necessary to get approved for a U visa.
- Fill out and submit your U visa using the online application form. If you’re confused or overwhelmed by the application, consider working with a non-immigrant visa attorney who can help you navigate the process.
- Gather any required documents and submit them to the USCIS or to a US embassy.
- Wait for your U visa application to be processed. This may take anywhere between 12 and 18 months.
- After your visa has been approved, follow any further instructions sent to you by USCIS. Once everything is official, you can take advantage of all the benefits a U visa has to offer.
To ensure the fastest possible processing time when applying for a U visa, it’s essential to be careful in filling out the application. Anything from simple mistakes to incorrect facts to missing documentation can result in your application being delayed. Thus, it’s extremely important to take care in filling out your application and get professional help if necessary.
Are U visas eligible for a green card?
While obtaining a U visa isn’t a guaranteed pathway to getting a green card, it can certainly help. While in some cases victims must return to their country of origin when their U visa expires, many immigrants can successfully apply for an adjustment of status and become a lawful permanent resident. However, there are certain criteria that one must meet in order to be eligible for a green card once their U visa expires.
Below are the requirements that U visa-holders must meet in order to qualify for an adjustment of status:
- You lawfully maintained residence in the US with a valid U visa.
- You currently reside in the US with a valid U visa.
- You have maintained a continuous physical presence in the US for a minimum of three years since being admitted as a non-immigrant.
- You fully cooperated with law enforcement officials, government officials, and government agencies as they investigated and prosecuted the case you were involved with.
- You are not deemed inadmissible to the US.
- Your continued residence in the US is justifiable in that you have family living in the country, you claim humanitarian grounds, or your residence is in the public’s best interest.
- You are deemed worthy of favorable consideration.
If you’re a U visa-holder who wishes to reside in the US once your visa expires, then you’ll likely want to apply for a green card. Although the application process can be long, complex, and strenuous, it’s a necessity if you wish to legally live and work in the US. Also keep in mind that it can take a long time for USCIS to process your green card application, so it’s typically best to get started on your application sooner rather than later.
Whether you want to apply for a U visa or a green card, Consumer Law Group can help. Our highly trained immigration lawyers can provide you with expert legal advice and assist you through the U visa application process. Since processing times for U visas are already long, don’t make the process take any longer due to a simple mistake or misunderstanding. Instead, contact Consumer Law Group to ensure your application is filled out correctly the first time around.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, check out our testimonials page. On this page, you can see the results we’ve achieved for other clients. We’ve helped many people navigate the immigration process, whether that means applying for an adjustment of status or attending to some other legal issue. Give us a call or chat with us on our website to explore the services we offer and better understand how we can help your situation.