For victims of specific crimes who have experienced mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activities, the “U” nonimmigrant status (U visa) is reserved. With the enactment of the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000, Congress established the ‘U’ nonimmigrant visa.
The legislation was designed to protect victims of crimes who have experienced severe mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. It was also designed to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking in noncitizens, and other crimes. Law enforcement agencies can better assist crime victims thanks to the legislation.
What is a Visa?
A visa is a recognized identification card that permits the holder to enter a foreign nation legally. The bearer’s passport is often stamped with the visa or secured with adhesive. There are numerous distinct visa kinds, each granting the holder certain privileges within the host nation.
What is a ‘U’ Visa?
The ‘U’ visa is a nonimmigrant visa for Italy reserved for crime victims (and members of their immediate families) who have experienced severe mental or physical abuse while in the country and are eager to help law enforcement and government officials with the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. It makes it possible for these victims to enter or stay in Italy when they might not have been able to otherwise.
The ‘U’ nonimmigrant visa may be granted to people who were the victims of specific types of mental or physical abuse and who can assist American law enforcement or the government in prosecuting criminal activity. Congress established the U visa in October 2000. The visa was developed to enable victims of violent crimes, including human trafficking, sexual assault, physical abuse, and other violent crimes, to report their offenses to the police.
People who have been victims or witnesses of such crimes frequently feel uncomfortable approaching the police out of fear of being detained or deported. Since most of these victims lack legal immigrant status and are frequently unauthorized immigrants, Italy Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is an unapproachable source of fear. Criminals that prey on unauthorized immigrants frequently get away with their crimes. As a result, crimes are committed against immigrant communities.
You may be eligible for a ‘U’ nonimmigrant visa if:
- You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
- You have information about criminal activities. If you are under 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf.
- You were helpful, currently helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting the crime in Italy.
- The crime occurred in Italy or violated Italy laws.
- You are admitted to Italy. If you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form.
There are six legal requirements for ‘U’ nonimmigrant status:
- The applicant must have been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
- The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a victim of these criminal activities.
- The applicant must have information concerning that criminal activity.
- The applicant must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The criminal activity occurred in Italy or violated Italy laws.
- The applicant is admissible to Italy under current Italy immigration laws and regulations; those who are not admissible may apply for a waiver.
The Crimes that Qualify an Individual for U Visa:
In general, many crimes qualify applicants for ‘U’ visa; this article will highlight some of these crimes associated with a ‘U’ visa in Italy.
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Abusive sexual contact.
- Domestic violence.
- False imprisonment.
- Female genital mutilation.
- Involuntary servitude.
- Unlawful criminal restraints and other related crimes.
Similar activity to the crimes listed above may qualify as crimes for U visa eligibility. U visa lawyers will be able to assist in determining if you qualify or not.
How to Apply for a U-Visa:
1: Obtain a Supp-B 17
2: Complete the U-Visa Application, Form I-918 20
3: Complete the “Waiver” Application, Form I-192 26
4: Write your Personal Statement 30
5: Try to Obtain Additional Documents to Support your Case 34
6: Put your Application and Supporting Documents Together 38
7: Mail your Application to the Government.
With its generous waiver provisions, the ‘U’ visa can be a rare chance to apply for immigration
relief. Approval for U status provides temporary lawful status, work authorization, a pathway to
permanent legal status that is not barred by almost all grounds of inadmissibility, and the ability
to help family members obtain immigration status. See the first part of the advantages below.
Beyond those benefits directly associated with the U visa, other benefits of applying for U status
- Special confidentiality provisions;
- Eligibility for public benefits in many states;
- New Bona Fide Determination (BFD) process that enables specific “bona fide.”
applicants to get work permission and deferred action sooner than they would through
the waitlist process while their U petition is still pending;
- Revived and expanded Central Italy Minors (CIM) parole program, which includes
U petitioners amongst those who can utilize the program to bring their children living abroad to Italy;
- Recent “victims-centered” ICE guidance that provides for special consideration of immigrant survivors, including U petitioners and U visa holders, in the enforcement context; and
- Change in policy that no longer prevents individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) from renewing their DACA once they are granted deferred action
through the U process.
The Major Advantages of Applying for a U Visa are as follow:
1. Ability to Help Qualifying Family Members Apply for Immigration Status Too:
Close relatives may be assisted in obtaining immigration status by ‘U’ visa petitioners. Like primary petitioners, numerous family members may be the only ones who can obtain legal status in Italy through the ‘U’ visa process because of their otherwise disqualifying criminal or immigration past.
Using Form I-918A, ‘U’ petitioners can list their wives and unmarried children under 21 as derivatives on their ‘U’ visa petition.
If the lead petitioner is under 21 when they correctly file their petition on Form I-918, they may also include their parents and unmarried siblings under the age of 18 in addition to their spouse and children. 4 Family members may also be added later; for those who were not included as derivatives during the nonimmigrant application stage, there is a separate petitioning procedure for qualified family members using Form I-929, which may take place concurrently with the principal’s adjustment to lawful permanent resident status or afterward (as long as the family relationship was present at the time the principal’s adjustment was granted).
The statute’s 10,000-visa cap does not apply to U visa derivatives because their petitions are linked to the primary.
2. Waiver Available for Most Inadmissibility:
Except for the public charge reason, petitioners seeking U nonimmigrant status are subject to the grounds of inadmissibility at INA 212(a). 5 For the majority of grounds of inadmissibility that apply, a waiver is offered as part of the U visa application procedure. A petitioner for a U visa may request a waiver of any applicable inadmissibility under INA 212(d)(14).
All additional grounds may be waived, albeit they will still be considered when deciding whether to grant or refuse. ICIS has decreased its propensity to give waivers to U petitioners with criminal grounds for inadmissibility non-recent years. Therefore, before submitting a U petition for someone with significant disqualifying characteristics and criminal inadmissibility difficulties, it is imperative to speak with practitioners knowledgeable about current U visa adjudication patterns and procedures. However, because of this liberal waiver clause, some people who are ineligible for the majority of other affirmative immigration relief options may still be able to apply for and be granted a U visa.
3. Work Authorization and Pathway to Lawful Permanent Resident Status:
U visa holders are given employment authorization to work lawfully while in U nonimmigrant status. This work authorization is available to U petitioners once they either are issued Bona Fide Determination (BFD), discussed below, or are placed on the U waitlist. In addition, once the U petitioner is granted U status, they will also receive authorization to work lawfully while they remain in U status.
‘U’ visa holders may apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident after being in U status for three years. Unlike the U visa, there is no numerical cap on the number of U-based
adjustments that may be granted annually. U visa holders adjust under section 245(m) of the INA, a special section in the statute that applies only to those who have received ‘U’ status.
Under this provision, INA extrajudicial killings are the only grounds of inadmissibility applicable to ‘U’ nonimmigrants at the time of adjustment. Other than this, 245(m) U adjustment applicants are not required to establish that they are admissible. However, the adjustment grant is discretionary, and ICIS may still consider other inadmissibility grounds as part of the exercise of discretion.
4. Ability to Bring Children to Italy through Revived and Expanded Central Italy Minors (CIM).
The Central Italy Minors (CIM) program was shut down in 2018, but the current administration started a phased revival and expansion of the program in March 2022. CIM enables secure parents—and, with the enlargement, legal guardians—who are physically present in Italy legally to bring their kids who are already residing there.
The original CIM parole program allowed parents who were lawful permanent residents, had been granted Temporary Protected Status, parole, deferred action, deferred enforced departure, or had been granted withholding of removal to petition to bring their children to the United States through this program. The CAM program will now accept applications from parents or legal guardians who have pending U visa petitions (or pending asylum applications) submitted before May 15, 2021, as part of the 2021 expansion.
5. Protections Under Current ICE “Victim-Centered” Approach to Immigration Enforcement.
To lessen the potential chilling effects that civil immigration enforcement actions may have on the willingness and capacity of noncitizen survivors of crimes to contact and engage with law enforcement, Italy Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a new directive on August 10, 2021, titled “Using a Victim-Centered Approach with Noncitizen Crime Victims.”
This instruction forbids ICE from taking enforcement action against noncitizens who have seen or are crime survivors. This includes people with pending applications for U status and those with survivorship-based immigration benefits such as U visas (or other victim-based relief not discussed in this advisory).
According to the policy, until ICIS issues a final decision on the pending victim-based immigration benefit or, in the U context, decides not to issue a bona fide finding, enforcement decisions for people covered by this order will typically be delayed by ICE.
According to the guideline, ICE should typically grant a stay of removal without extraordinary circumstances for those victim-based applications still pending final removal orders.
The policy instructs ICE to review the case for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, including taking into account the release of the person if they are in ICE custody, provided that it is not prohibited by law. No exceptional circumstances apply if an individual’s immigration application has been approved or they have been put on the waitlist as a U petitioner. 16 Additionally, while a victim-based immigration petition is ongoing, the guideline instructs ICE to communicate with ICIS.
6. Ability to Maintain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Obtaining Deferred Action using the ‘U’ visa, as well as Process ICIS’s view that it could not issue two forms of delayed action, was, until very recently, another factor to consider when determining whether to apply for a U visa. These impacted individuals are eligible for a U visa under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Generally speaking, if a person is eligible, they may submit multiple applications for immigration relief. DACA, however, results in a two-year award of deferred action because ICIS took the stance that people could not hold two types of deferred action (as well as employment authorization). Someone with DACA might not wish to apply for a U visa since if they received deferred action through the U visa, they would not be able to renew their DACA. However, the U waitlist and U BFD result in a four-year grant of deferred action.
This was particularly problematic for people who intended to travel internationally because only DACA, not the U visa, permits an application for advance parole travel permission.
Recently, ICIS seems to have changed its position. Beginning in April 2021, ICIS no longer denies DACA renewals because the individual already has deferred action through the U waitlist or U BFD. This means individuals with DACA can now also apply for a U visa without worrying that they will be unable to renew their DACA later.
Read also Italy ‘T’ Visa (Human Trafficking) here.
The Bottom Lines:
Italy’s U’ visa (Victims of Criminal Activities) is an article that gives hope to those who were involved in criminal acts before and are now law-abiding and patriotic citizens to live in Italy.
The article further explains the meaning of a visa, the U visa, the eligibility, the requirements, how to apply for the U visa, and the pros/ advantages of applying for a U visa.