New T Visa and U Visa Changes Benefit Applicants

1147342_security_fence_3.jpgThe US Department of State issued last month a June 2013 cable explaining recent T and U visa changes that were enacted by Congress in March 2013. These changes grant several protections previously unavailable to petitioners.

What are the U and T visas?

The U visa is a nonimmigrant category reserved for foreign nationals who are crime victims that have endured substantial mental or physical abuse as a consequence. The person must want to help police and other government agencies to investigate or prosecute the crime. Once granted U visa status, person may later become eligible for a green card.

The T visa is a nonimmigrant category designed to protect victims of human trafficking crime. The visa will also permit a person to stay in the US to help federal authorities investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases.

Changes to the U visa

Protection against aging out

Unmarried children of the principal applicant are now protected against aging out. “Aging out” is when a child with a pending petition turns 21 and then no longer qualifies as a child. Previous to the change, the law did not protect children from aging out, and those that did had to wait several years longer to get a visa. Under the new change, the age of the child freezes at the time the petition is filed.

Aging out protection is retroactive

The protection against aging out is now retroactive. Therefore, for petitions that were pending before the change, any child beneficiaries of those petitions are also protected against aging out. Even if the child’s was previously denied, the child is now eligible for the visa.

No protection for married children

The requirement of the child to be unmarried remains the same, however. Once the child becomes married, he or she is no longer eligible for the visa.

On-hold petitions resume

Visa petitions with aging out issues that were on hold before the changes are now being adjudicated, according to the USCIS. However, just because adjudication of the petition has resumed, this does not mean the petition will be approved.

Public charge

Previously, U visa applicants were subject to inadmissibility if they would become a public charge, and applicants were required to submit I-864 affidavits of support. Now the public charge ground is no longer a basis for inadmissibility, and applicants are no longer required to submit I-864 affidavits of support nor request I-192 waivers of the public charge ground.

Changes to the T visa

New derivative status

The T visa derivative status eligibility was expanded to include derivative status to certain categories of family members who previously were not eligible. The new categories are the principal applicant’s grandchildren, step children, nieces or nephews, and siblings. In order to qualify, the derivative family member must face the present danger retaliation as a result of the principal applicant’s escape from trafficking or cooperation with authorities. This visa will be added to the previous derivative categories (T-2, T-3, T-4, T-5) as the T-6 visa.

VAWA changes

Public charge

Petitioners filing for relief under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) form I-360 who would become a public charge were previously subject to inadmissibility and were required to submit I-864 affidavits of support. As a result of the change, the public charge ground is no longer a basis for inadmissibility, and applicants are no longer required to submit I-864 affidavits of support nor request a waiver.