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Is the U Visa your Ticket to Citizenship?

U visa lawyer all over the country are familiar with the struggles faced by victims of crime who do not have legal status under our immigration laws. An article in the San Francisco Daily told the story of Mardoqueu Silva, a Brazilian national who was 21 years of age when his life changed for ever. Illegally overstaying his tourist visa for four years and counting, he took the jobs he could get without papers — he was a pizza delivery man. Mr. Silva headed out for the delivery that would change his life.

Silva followed his boss’ instructions. Parking in the street and calling to say he’d arrived, he rolled the window down a few inches and told the twenty-something black man who approached in a 49ers jacket and white pants to pay him up front. The man stuffed bills into his hand, and Silva turned to grab the pizzas in the passenger seat. A .45 handgun was pressed into Silva’s temple. His hair stood on end. Silva got out, his hands behind his head. He told his assailant that his wallet was in the car, and to take anything you want, just don’t shoot. More thugs rushed up and searched his car, snatching his cellphone, and yes, the two pizzas. In less than a minute, it was over. With the help of his U visa lawyer, this event changed Mr. Silva’s life in the U.S. for ever. He now qualified for a U visa.

The purpose of the U visa is to give victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to four years. The U visa was intended to improve immigrants’ unwillingness to call law enforcement. It makes sense: who wants to call the police only to be deported?

There is a lot of opposition to the U visa. Some have claimed that U visas encourage illegal immigrants to stay in the United States or to come here illegally. Some argue that U visa applicants get benefits out of reporting crimes that U.S. Citizens don’t get — arguing that the U visa rewards people who should not be here in the first place by giving them “residency” or “citizenship.”

But it is important to understand that it does not work that way. There is no “easy” ride for victims of crime. In fact, when an applicant applies for a U visa there are many hurdles to go through before the applicant can even apply, including getting certification of the crime, a sometimes seemingly impossible and complicated legal task. Additionally, if the U visa is approved, the intending immigrant does not get permanent residency. Instead, the U visa applicant gets U visa nonimmigrant status, which in essence means the immigrant gets a work permit for up to four years. However, the benefits do not last for ever.The applicant is only eligible to apply for permanent residency (not citizenship) after three to four years of having his U non-immigrant status. A whole new immigration case and process must be started to begin the residency process. Despite how newspapers and the news describe the U visa, it’s not an “easy” way to get residency. It’s a challenging process that takes time and typically requires the expert knowledge of a U visa attorney.

Ms. Lyttle is a U-visa lawyer who serves Travis, Williamson, Hays, Comal, Bastrop, and surrounding counties. We have experience with U visas and can help you win your U visa case regardless of where you live. You can reach us 24/7 at (512) 329-2770.

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