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Nonimmigrant U visas are available for the victims of certain serious crimes who have helpful information to provide to law enforcement agencies for the purpose of catching and prosecuting a wrong-doer. If you are granted U visa status, you will be given the opportunity to stay in the U.S. for up to four years, the right obtain work authorization and eventually you may be eligible for legal permanent residency (a “green card”) after holding the status continuously for three years in the United States. This visa is such a major benefit to non-immigrants who do not otherwise have family members in the U.S. who can sponsor them for legal status.
One of the other benefits of this program is that individuals who suffered from one of the qualifying crimes can also use this tragedy to help their non-immigrant family members, who will, in turn, be able to obtain work authorization and eventually a green card of their own. This is called obtaining “derivative status” for a family member.
So, which family members qualify for derivative U visa status? The crime victim who applies for U status is known to USCIS as the “principal applicant” and they can petition for derivative U status for certain family members either at the time of your original application (the recommended approach) or after they receive their U visa.
Which relatives qualify for derivative U status will depend on your age and, in some instances, your family member’s age and marital status. For example, if the principal applicant is over 21 years old, he or she can include the following family members in their application: a spouse, unmarried children under age 21. If the principal applicant is under 21, they can include the following relatives to qualify for derivative U status: a spouse, unmarried children under age 21, parents and even unmarried siblings under age 18. Another amazing part of this program is that family members do not have to actually be in the U.S. at the time of the filing or even in the past to be able qualify for derivative status.
What if you didn’t include a family member on your U visa application, can you include them later? Although it is usually better to file for U visas for your family members at the time that you file your own petition, if you didn’t do that, you may still be able to include them later on after you receive your U visa or even when you file for lawful permanent residence. Although the process exists for this, adding a family member later on is a bit more difficult if not done at the same time. Not only do you need to complete entirely different paper work, but it is also necessary to show that you or your family member will suffer “extreme hardship” if they are not permitted to enter the U.S. or not be able to remain in the U.S. with this status.
The following are examples of some hardships you can show immigration to be able to get derivative status for family members after the fact. You can show that the type and degree of the physical or mental abuse suffered as a result of being a victim of crime has had a serious impact on your mental or physical health and you need assistance from a family member to be able to deal with the after effects. It is possible to show the negative effect on you or your family member if they are going to lose access to the U.S. courts or criminal justice system. For some family members it’s possible to show an increased probability that the perpetrator’s family, friends or others acting on behalf of the perpetrator may try to cause harm to you or your family members living abroad.
In domestic violence cases, it is common for family members living outside the U.S. to be treated poorly because local laws and social practices effectively punish them for having been victims of domestic violence or because they have taken steps to leave an abusive home. Keep in mind that these are just examples of potential hardship arguments for qualifying family members to be added to the U visa process after the principal applicant already received a U visa or even their green card.
If you or a family member has been victimized by another person inside the U.S., please contact our office to see how the U visa process may help. You can do this by contacting our office to schedule a consultation at 616-805-3435 or by using the following link to schedule an appointment online: https://marvinlawoffice.com/schedule-a-consultation/