A U-visa is specifically for victims of crimes, although this term can include witnesses and bystanders. Two of the main criteria are that the crime has caused the applicant substantial physical or mental harm and that they have been helpful to law enforcement.
On the surface, this sounds like quite a simple point. However, there are different types of help that USCIS considers on U-visa applications. So, let us take a look at what a victim must do to be eligible for a U-visa.
What do We Mean by Victim?
First, it’s worth defining what we mean by victim, as this will help us understand the types of help a victim can offer. For U-visa applications, USCIS considers direct and indirect victims.
A direct victim is someone who has suffered the crime. For example, this might be the victim of an assault. An indirect victim is anyone else who suffers from the crime but is not the direct victim. For example, this might be the relative of someone who is murdered, but it could also be a person who witnessed or reported a crime.
Indirect victims must show that they suffered substantial harm as a result of the crime. They can do this in the form of personal statements, medical records or any other proof that highlights the impact of the crime. Along with this, they need to show they were, are being, or can be helpful to law enforcement.
What Counts as Being Helpful to Law Enforcement?
Many things count as help. Not all of them relate to being a direct victim. Here is a list of some examples of what counts as helping law enforcement:
· You called 911 when the crime was being committed
· You gave an interview to the police at the time/provided a witness statement
· You identified or described the criminal
· You provided physical evidence, such as photos
· You spoke to a prosecutor
· You gave evidence or testified in court
This isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to give help, but should highlight the range of things a victim can do. It’s also worth noting that your help doesn’t need to result in the criminal’s prosecution, or even them being taken to court. To apply for a U-visa, it’s enough to simply provide help to law enforcement in some way.
Helpfully, USCIS issues a specific document for proving a victim’s helpfulness towards law enforcement. It’s known as Form I-918B, or a Law Enforcement Certification. In short, a law enforcement agent signs the form to confirm the victim knows something about the crime that will help with the investigation and/or prosecution.
If you are the victim of a crime applying for a U-visa, you can get your lawyer to arrange this. They will approach an appropriate law enforcement agent, such as one involved in the investigation, and get them to fill it out. Considering the process will already be difficult for victims, it is unreasonable to expect them to arrange this form, too.
Adding a Personal Statement
As mentioned, you will need to provide a personal statement as part of your U-visa application. This is your way of telling your story and relationship to the crime and what it has done to you. There is no trial or court proceedings as part of a U-visa application, so this is the only way to explain how and why you meet the required criteria.
Along with explaining your relationship to the crime, it is also a way of explaining any gaps in your story that might matter. For example, why you did not seek medical help at the time or did not report the crime immediately to the police. USCIS needs as much evidence as possible to make an informed decision, and this is where you give it.
While you can write a personal statement yourself, it can be helpful to do it under guidance from an attorney. They will be able to highlight any areas you have missed or potential gaps in your story. Also, if English is not your first language, they can help you get the statement translated.
Helping Law Enforcement for a U-Visa
Understanding what we mean by help is one thing, but providing it to law enforcement is another thing entirely. So, if you are a victim of a qualifying crime and believe you are eligible for a U-visa, hiring an immigration attorney is the best way to ensure the application goes smoothly.
San Diego Immigration Law Office is here to help if you need to apply for a U-visa. We can help you gather evidence, write a personal statement, and obtain Form I-918B.
So, get in touch with San Diego Immigration Law Office and book a consultation to discuss things further. We are here to help you every step of the way.