If you have held U nonimmigrant status as a crime victim assisting law enforcement for three years and have continuously resided in the U.S. for that amount of time, you should consider filing an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjust your status to permanent resident as soon as possible.
If successful, you will receive your “green card” and you can live and work in the U.S. without the worry that you will be forced to leave once your help in the investigation and prosecution of the crime against you is no longer needed. Read on for tips on filing and specific information about the types of evidence and documentation you will need to include in your application.
Who is Eligible to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident
In order to qualify for a green card after three years in U status (either as a U-1 principal or a derivative beneficiary family member), you must prove that you:
- have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for three years or more
- have not unreasonably refused to assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting the crime against you
- are not inadmissible to the U.S. due to participation in Nazi persecution, genocide, or extrajudicial killings, and
- can demonstrate to USCIS that allowing you to become a permanent resident is justified on humanitarian, public interest, or family unity grounds.
In addition, if you have a qualifying family member who has never held U status, he or she can also apply for a green card if he or she is in the U.S. and:
- has an approved Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant
- can show that the U-1 principal would suffer extreme hardship if he or she were forced to leave the U.S., and
- is not inadmissible to the United States due to criminal, health-related, or other grounds.
For a more in-depth look at these requirements, please see “Will a U Visa Ever Lead to a Green Card?”
What to Do If Your U Status Will Expire Before You Can Apply for a Green Card
When you received U status, you were authorized to live and work in the U.S. temporarily in order to help certain officials and agencies with their work investigating and prosecuting the crime against you. The period of time that you can be granted U status may vary, but it will usually be a period of four years for the U-1 principal applicant.
However, due to consular processing delays, many derivative U visas may only have an authorized stay of three years or less. If your U status will expire before you are able to accrue the continuous presence needed to be eligible to adjust status to permanent resident, you may able to extend the time to a period not exceeding four years.
You should do this if want to remain in the U.S. and maintain your eligibility to apply for a green card in the future. For advice on filling out this form, see “Filling Out Form I-539 to Extend Nonimmigrant Visa.” Keep in mind that along with all of the documentation described there, you should be prepared to describe how USCIS or consular processing delays slowed your entry into the U.S. or that you would be unable to adjust to permanent residence if your U visa was not extended through no fault of your own.
Keep in Touch With Law Enforcement During Your Time in U Status
Try to maintain good relationships with the law enforcement officials with whom you have been in contact during the time you have lived in the U.S. in U status so that they can certify that you have not unreasonably refused to assist them. When you apply for a green card, your contacts with the government agencies tasked with investigating and prosecuting the crime against you will be examined to ensure that you have continued to be helpful while you have lived in the U.S. in U status.
The best way to do this is to be proactive. You should regularly reach out to the police officers, agency officials, social workers, and prosecutors that you have been in contact with and ask whether you can help them in any way. Keep track of all of your phone calls, emails, and other correspondence with law enforcement so that you can provide USCIS with this record when you apply for permanent residence. Even simply writing a note to yourself saying something like, “DATE: August 12, 2013, telephoned Officer Friendly to ask whether he needs for information from me; he says not for now, but he’ll get back to me if anything comes up” will be helpful evidence with which to support your case.
Consider Hiring an Experienced Immigration Attorney to Help You
Adjustment to U.S. permanent resident from U status is a completely discretionary benefit, which means that USCIS officer tasked with making a decision on your application can deny you a green card if he or she decides to do so. If you have any “red flags” in your history, such as criminal offenses, you should definitely consult with an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in your application.
A lawyer can also help you to gather the types of evidence may tip the scales in your favor by showing that you are worthy of a green card by virtue of your contributions to society, the difficult situation you would face if forced to return to your home country, or if you would be separated from close family members who live in the United States.
What Documents You Will Need to Apply for a Green Card
To apply to adjust your status to permanent resident, you will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with USCIS. Along with this completed application, you should include:
- Filing fee or, or if you cannot afford it, a waiver request filed on Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. (For current USCIS fees, see Form G-1055, Fee Schedule.)
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.
- Form G-325A, Biographic Information Sheet (if you are between 14 and 79 years old).
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and supporting documentation. (For instructions, see “Filling Out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.”)
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and supporting documentation. (To learn more, please read Nolo’s article, “Filling Out Form I-131 for Advance Parole.”)
- A copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, showing that USCIS approved you for U nonimmigrant status,
- A copy of your I-94, Arrival/Departure Record (All arriving foreign visitors had this white card stapled into their passports until this form was automated for most in April 2013.).
- A copy of all of the pages of your passport, including the U nonimmigrant visa (if you do not have a U visa because you have not departed the U.S. since you were granted U status, you should make copies of all of your passport pages anyways. If you don’t have a passport, provide an explanation as to why you do not have one, such as loss or theft).
- A copy of your birth certificate (along with an English translation).
- Two passport-style photos.
- Evidence that you have three years of continuous physical presence in the U.S.: This can include tax transcripts, pay stubs, leases, receipts, and utility bills for a U.S. residence, a letter from your school or employer, or affidavits from those who can vouch for your U.S. presence.
- Evidence that you complied with requests for assistance from law enforcement officials: The best evidence of this is a new Form I-918 Supplement B, which you obtained in order to receive U status when you applied. For more information on what this involves, read “What’s Needed for a U Certification of Helpfulness.” If you could not obtain one, you will need to provide an affidavit describing your attempts to contact law enforcement officials during your time in U status and a reason for any failure to comply with a request for cooperation.
- Evidence that you “deserve” permanent residence: U-1 visa holders are not subject to a majority of the inadmissibility grounds that many others face when applying for a green card. However, because adjustment of status for U visa-holders is dependent on whether USCIS believes it is justified, you should be prepared to submit evidence that you should be granted a green card on humanitarian, public interest, or family unity grounds.
After you compile all of this information, make a copy for your files and send it to the Vermont Service Center at 75 Lower Welden Street, St. Alban’s, VT 05479. Family members who have derivative U status and wish to adjust status to permanent resident may also submit a Form I-485 if they meet the requirements above. If you have a family member who has never held U status, you may apply for immigration benefits for him or her after you receive a receipt notice to document your pending I-485 petition by filing Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant.
What Will Happen After Filing
After you file Form I-485, you should first receive a receipt notice, and later, a biometrics appointment notice where you will have your photograph, fingerprints, and signature taken. If USCIS has questions about your application, you may be scheduled to interview at your local office. Make sure to bring a copy of everything you sent to USCIS and an interpreter if you are not fluent in English.