Can I apply for a U visa if I was a victim of a crime seven years ago?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a question from a reader who wants to apply for a U visa.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I was a victim of domestic violence in 2011 by my undocumented partner and I reported the crime to the police. I cooperated with the authorities and he was sentenced to jail. Recently, I found out that victims of domestic violence can apply for a U visa. Can I apply for this kind of visa even though it has been seven years since I was a victim of a crime? -Monica M.

Monica, you may still be able to apply for U nonimmigrant status, commonly known as a U visa. It does not matter how much time has passed since you were a victim of domestic violence, as long as you meet all the requirements for this immigration benefit.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants U visas to individuals who have been victims of domestic violence and other crimes such as rape, incest, kidnapping, attempted murder and human trafficking.

To be eligible, the person must have been the victim of a crime that falls within the parameters dictated by USCIS and that occurred in the United States or violated the laws of the country. The victim must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal act and must cooperate and assist authorities in the investigation and prosecution of his or her offenders.

The applicant must obtain a certification that he/she cooperated with the authorities. Such certification may be obtained from the police, the prosecutor's office, or the court, among other entities.

In addition, the person must be admissible to the United States and not have committed certain disqualifying acts.

Under certain circumstances, a waiver can be requested for acts that usually do not allow immigrants to obtain immigration status.

The U visa is a temporary visa. It is only issued for a period of four years. At the end of that period, there are options to apply for permanent residency if certain requirements are met.

I recommend that you immediately obtain a copy of the crime report you filed with the police and evidence that you have suffered substantial physical or mental harm as a result of the domestic violence. Also, go to the criminal court where your ex-partner was prosecuted and ask the court clerk for a summary of the case including the sentence your abuser received.

Then, take all the documentation to a licensed and experienced immigration attorney to analyze your situation and tell you what your immigration options are, including whether or not you should apply for a U visa.