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U Visa Certifications: What it is and Why you need it

Allison Lukanich

The U-visa nonimmigrant status is a way for victims of certain crimes, who are otherwise undocumented or out of status, to apply for and receive non-immigrant status and temporary immigration benefits if they been the victim of a qualifying crime while in the United States. There is a list of enumerated crimes , and includes such things such as felonious assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, extortion, among others.

Many victims are quick to call an immigration lawyer after they have suffered such a crime, but often overlook one of the biggest steps in terms of obtaining a U visa, the U visa certification.

See Certificaciones de U Visa: Qué es eso y por qué necesitas?

What it is

Every U visa applicant is required to obtain a U Visa certification, which is filed with form I-918 Supplement B.  The certification form is signed by either a judge, law enforcement officer, or prosecutor who is involved in the investigation and prosecution of the crime committed against the applicant.  The certification, through the authorized representative’s signature, is confirming not only that the applicant was the victim of one of the qualifying crimes, but that he or she was helpful, is currently helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the future in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.

Why you need it

If you believe you qualify for a U non-immigrant visa, you must demonstrate how you have helped or assisted law enforcement (police) or the prosecution (District Attorney’s office) in pursuing criminal charges against the perpetrator(s) of the crime against you.

The reality is that many immigrants, due to either a language barrier, a lack of knowledge of the workings of the criminal justice system, or fear, fail to stay in touch with the detectives and prosecutors of their case.  It can be difficult to obtain certification by law enforcement/prosecution because aside from making the initial 911 emergency call and speaking to the police officer at the scene about the crime, the victim fails to respond to calls following up from the police department about the crime, or doesn’t show up to court to testify against the perpetrator(s).

Tips to help you if you’ve been the victim of a crime and believe you may qualify for a U visa:

  • Stay in touch with the police or detective assigned to your case!
    • Oftentimes, where the perpetrator is not immediately apprehended or arrested, the police will continue to investigate. Through maintaining contact with the officer or detective assigned to your case, they know that you are interested in seeking justice for what happened to you and your case will stay at the forefront of their minds.
  • Have an English-speaking friend or relative accompany you to any meetings or appointments
    • You may not be as familiar with the inter-workings of the American criminal justice system or be comfortable with communicating solely in English. Having someone with you who can help explain certain things, or advocate for you on your behalf will go a long way in not only helping you to feel supported, but could also have an impact with the police or prosecutor (District Attorney) to show how you have taken interest in your case and are doing all you can to participate in the process.
  • Show up to court to testify, even if you have to go multiple times
    • When a perpetrator is apprehended and charges are filed against him or her, there will be multiple court dates that you, as the victim of the crime, may have to attend. The District Attorney’s office should communicate with you regarding when and where you need to show up.  Oftentimes, court cases or trial dates are continued at the last minute, due to delays by either side, meaning you may to return to court to testify on your behalf multiple times. This can be extremely exhausting and frustrating. That being said, be sure to show up! Without the victim’s testimony, many perpetrator’s charges are dismissed because without the testimony, the state cannot meet their burden of proof.

 In order to apply for a U visa when you’ve been a victim of a crime, the certification signed by the law enforcement, the prosecutor, or a judge is a requirement to move forward with the application.  Knowing these small things in the short term and demonstrating your interest in pursuing the case against the perpetrator and seeking justice for yourself will go a long way to obtain the necessary certification.

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