United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new Policy Memorandum, “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013: Changes to U Nonimmigrant Status and Adjustment of Status Provisions,” on June 15, 2014 which broadens the U visa requirements and allows more individuals to apply for the benefit.
The U visa allows undocumented individuals who have been victims of certain crimes to apply for temporary status in the U.S. The U visa is by far one of the most generous forms of relief available, as it provides an opportunity to waive prior immigration violations which may not be possible with other forms of relief. Additionally, an individual who has maintained U nonimmigrant status for three years may be eligible to apply for legal permanent residence (a green card).
The most notable changes outlined in the USCIS Policy Memorandum include (1) the addition of two new qualifying crimes, and (2) added protection of derivative family members from “aging out” of eligibility.
New Qualifying Crimes
One of the requirements of qualifying for a U visa is that the applicant was the victim of a qualifying crime. The new USCIS Policy Memorandum outlines the expansion of the list of crimes to now include “Stalking” and “Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting (as defined in section 1351 of title 18, United States Code).” This means that individuals who were victims of these crimes may now be eligible for U nonimmigrant status.
Protection from Aging Out
Certain family members of a principal U visa applicant are also eligible to apply for U nonimmigrant status as a “derivative” family member. Previously, a derivative child would qualify if he/she was unmarried and under 21 years old when the U visa was approved. Additionally, a parent would only qualify as a derivative if the principal applicant was under 21 years old when the U visa was approved. This created many problems because long USCIS processing times would cause individuals to “age out” (turn 21 years old) and therefore become ineligible for relief.
The USCIS Policy Memorandum outlines a new rule which states that the age of the qualifying family member will be established on the date that U visa is filed, rather than approved. This rule essentially freezes the age of the principal and derivative on the filing date, for the purpose of age-out protection.