U-visa is a nonimmigrant visa for victims of crimes who help law enforcement. We discuss the visa in more depth on this blog post, In this article, let us look at whether U-visa holders are eligible for Green Card status along with some other important points.
Can U-Visa Holders Apply for a Green Card?
A U-visa is a nonimmigrant visa for victims of crimes who help law enforcement. We discuss the visa in more depth on our website, so follow the link for specific information on requirements and eligibility.
In this article, let us look at whether U-visa holders are eligible for Green Card status along with some other important points.
Can U-Visa Holders Apply for a Green Card?
U-visa holders can apply for Green Card (lawful permanent resident) status in the U.S. under certain circumstances. As the visa requires the holder to assist law enforcement in their criminal investigations, this is of course an important factor in eligibility.
It is also a bit of a vague requirement, as the USCIS website states that “you have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance” during the investigation. The visa is based on the holder helping law enforcement, but by extension means there is no objective benchmark for the assistance provided. Unlike other adjustment of status applications, which have (generally) clear guidelines, this is more of a gray area.
Another important area of eligibility is the length of your stay in the U.S. The applicant must have been continuously present in the country for 3 years since being admitted as a U-visa holder. A U-visa is valid for a maximum of 4 years, so you should ideally use your final year to begin your Green Card application (if you wish to remain in the country permanently, of course).
To approve an adjustment of status for a U-visa holder, USCIS uses its “discretion”. It is relevant in this kind of application because the visa holder may have some affiliation to crime or other factors that might otherwise make them inadmissible for a Green Card.
The burden of proof for showing eligibility lies with the visa applicant. In short, this means you must demonstrate why your application should be approved. USCIS considers factors such as family ties and length of residence to be favorable, and it balances these against potential adverse factors such as crimes, and previous immigration violations.
Inadmissibility means someone is not permitted to enter (or remain in) the United States after having applied for a visa or for a legal permanent residency. Legal permanent residency applications typically have inadmissibility factors, such as committing certain crimes, unlawful presence, and fraud, among others.
However, U-visa holders are not generally required to be admissible, based on the nature of the visa they hold. It is not a blanket approval, though, as visa holders can still be inadmissible under INA 212(a)(3)(E). This code covers membership in the Nazi party, participation in Nazi persecution, or other types of genocide and torture.
Other acts that would typically be inadmissible in residency applications are taken under consideration during review. As mentioned above, USCIS would then use its discretion to approve or deny the application.
Applying for Adjustment of Status
Other than the specific factors mentioned above, U-visa adjustment of status follows the standard process. This involves submitting Form I-485, providing the relevant proof and documentation, and paying the application fee.
As compiling evidence can be difficult for a normal Green Card application, hiring an immigration lawyer to assist with U-visa adjustment of status is a sensible idea.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card From a U-Visa?
On average, a Green Card application from a U-visa can take 1-2 years. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wait times are currently much longer. At the time of writing, it is anywhere from 18-27 months for approval.
U-visa applications are adjudicated at the Vermont Service Center. While you might think that only using one service center would increase waiting times, it balances against the fact that there are fewer U-visa Green Card applications.
Family members of U-visa holders (who would hold visas U-2 to U-5) can also apply for a Green Card once the primary U-visa (U-1) holder has started applying. Each family member must fill in their own copy of Form I-485, including documentation and fees.
Can You Get Citizenship with a U-Visa?
Once approved for a Green Card after adjustment of status, nothing is stopping you from then following the path to citizenship. In this regard, it does not necessarily matter what type of nonimmigrant visa you held, although USCIS might have to reconsider the previous admissibility factors.
The naturalization process requires you to hold a Green Card for 5 years. As mentioned, citizenship follows the standard procedure once you hold a Green Card, so there is little to worry about regarding your previous U-visa.
Converting Your U-Visa to a Green Card
Adjustment of status applications are not something you should handle alone, least of all if you hold a U-visa. Hiring a qualified immigration attorney is the best way to ensure a successful application.
San Diego Immigration Law Office is here to help if you want to apply for a Green Card as a U-visa holder. We can assist in the application, compiling evidence, and preparing you for necessary interviews.
So, if you would like to start your application, reach out to San Diego Immigration Law Office. We are here for you, every step of the way.