The U Nonimmigrant status, also known as U visa, is designed to encourage immigrant community members to report crimes to law enforcement. The U visa allows qualifying applicants and, in some cases, some of their family members, to gain protection from deportation for a period of four years and eventually apply for a green card.
Most U visa applicants were personally harmed as a result of the crime and apply as “direct” victims. However, the law does recognize that this does not have to be the case. For instance, when the direct victim is a minor or incapacitated at the time of the crime, the law allows for the victim’s parents to apply as indirect victims. Another example of an indirect victim is a spouse of a murder victim, where the surviving spouse may be able to pursue the immigration benefit. Here are a few specific examples:
Minor direct victim: Mary is 12 years old and a U.S. citizen and her parents and 4-year-old brother are undocumented. She was the victim of sexual assault. She told her mother about the incident and she promptly contacted the police. Mary was so traumatized that she refused to talk to the police, but the information provided by her mother allowed the police to investigate the crime. Since applicants can include certain family members as part of their case, Mary’s parents can apply as indirect victims and include their son as a derivative. Either parent could apply as the principal applicant, or both parents can apply with independent cases. Her brother may also apply as an indirect victim.
Now, let’s change Mary’s age. Let’s say we have the same situation as above where Mary and her mother reported the crime when she was 21, but Mary is now 22 years old and her parents have not applied for a U visa. Can her parents still qualify even if she is over 21? They can, because Mary’s age became “frozen” at the time of her victimization, so her parents and brother can still pursue the benefit.
Deceased direct victim: Joe was 25 years old and mugged and killed outside of his apartment. His surviving spouse can apply as an “indirect victim” and also include any minor children as part of the case.
What if Joe was 18 years old? Since he was under 21 years of age at the time of the crime, then his parents and siblings under 18 years of age may benefit and qualify for the U visa.
Bystander victim: Anna was present when her neighbor was brutally assaulted. She happened to be pregnant, but miscarried due to the shock of the incident. She was not physically harmed nor related to her neighbor, but she may apply for a U visa as she was a bystander and suffered unusually severe harm as a result of witnessing the crime.
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