A visa is a document utilized by individuals who are seeking authorization for travel and/or admittance to the United States. As a professional counselor, I support applicants of U Visas, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), and petitions by providing immigration mental health evaluations.
Each year there are a limited amount of U Visa allocated to applicants. According to the USCIS (2017) “the limit on the number of U visas that may be granted to principal petitioners each year is 10,000” (p. 3). Once the cap has been met, the USCIS will establish a waiting list for eligible applicants. Persons placed on the waiting list will be “granted deferred action or parole and are eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting for additional U visas to become available” (USCIS, 2017, p. 4). With this in mind, persons applying for the visa should work diligently to begin the process.
A U visa, is commonly known as a U nonimmigration status. This type of visa is for persons who have been through a specific type of crime and as a result experienced mental or physical abuse. In order to apply for the U Nonimmigration (U Visa) persons must be (a) a victim of a qualifying criminal activity (b) have suffered physical and/or mental abuse (c) have supported law enforcement with the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime (d) have experienced the crime in the United states (e) be admissible to the united states (USCIS, 2017). The USCIS (2017), list the following as qualifying criminal activities: “abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, felonious assault, rape, prostitution, perjury, peonage, murder, trafficking, witness tampering, and stalking” (p. 2).
Persons that find themselves eligible for the U Visa should pay special attention to the psychological trauma brought on by the qualifying criminal activity. With this in consideration, services such as mental health counseling or psychotherapy support groups can provide immense psychological aid for the person and their family.
One of the qualifications of the visa is that the person must be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity. Examples of qualifying criminal activity include but not limited to: (a) being physically assaulted while walking home from work (b) being sexually assaulted at your home (c) witnessing a bank robbery take place (d) experiencing domestic violence.
The assault should highlight trauma on an emotional level. In the example utilized above, being physically assaulted while walking home from work, the psychological mental trauma can be the following.: (a) experiencing problems sleeping (b) insecurity (c) feeling unsafe (d) sadness or anxiety. Overall, the person who experienced the criminal activity should also have experienced physical and/or emotional trauma. In addition to experiencing the criminal activity the person applying should have cooperated with the authorities. Cooperation with the authorities must have been in a positive manner, meaning that the application was forthcoming and earnest with the disclosure of the criminal activity.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2017). Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status. Retrieved from https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/victims- human-trafficking-other-crimes/victims-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant- status/victims-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status