How to get a green card with U visa and apply for residency

This week in my Immigration Consultation® column, I explain how certain crime victims can obtain permanent residency in the United States after obtaining a U visa.

This is the column:

In my previous column, I explained that the U visa is part of a humanitarian program of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is granted to victims of certain crimes who are willing to cooperate with authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminals who assaulted them.

If the crime victim and his or her immediate family members are deemed eligible, a U visa is extended for a period of four years. The visa is temporary, so additional steps must be taken to obtain permanent residency at the end of that period.

When applying for a green card, victims who have obtained a U visa must submit an application for adjustment of status. They will have to prove that they have been living in the U.S. continuously for at least three years since receiving the U visa, and that they cooperated with authorities in the investigation or prosecution of their abusers. They must be admissible to the U.S. and demonstrate that they are in the country for humanitarian reasons to ensure family unity or in the public interest.

In the case of family members of a victim, if they already have a U visa, they may apply for permanent residence. To do so, the victim must be eligible for permanent residence and their adjustment of status application must have been approved, be pending, or filed concurrently.

If a spouse, unmarried minor children or parents of a U visa beneficiary were not included in the initial U visa application, they can still apply for permanent residence. They must meet all requirements, including showing that they or the victim would suffer extreme hardship if the family members are not granted permanent residence.

If eligible, applicants for permanent residence through the U visa will be able to obtain work permits and authorization to leave the country.

If the USCIS denies the victim's application for adjustment of status, he or she may appeal the decision within a specified period of time. Unfortunately, while the person is appealing his or her case, he or she will not be able to obtain a work permit.

Consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings.