The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. No. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1464-1548 (2000)) was enacted to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute serious crimes while at the same time offering protection to victims of such crimes without the immediate risk of being removed from the country. Recognizing that victims without legal status may be reluctant to report crimes or assist in the investigation or prosecution of crimes, Congress created the U nonimmigrant status program.

The U visa is an immigration benefit for victims of certain serious “qualifying crimes” who meet eligibility requirements. (INA 101(a)(15)(U)). You may be eligible for U visa immigration benefits if you (1) are the direct or indirect victim of a qualifying crime that occurred in the United States; (2) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a crime; (3) have information about the crime; and (4) were helpful, or are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, or other officials in the detention, investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the criminal activity.

A “qualifying crime” includes, but is not limited to, abduction, abusive sexual contact, domestic violence, felonious assault, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, stalking, torture, witness tampering, etc., and related criminal activities (including attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes).

If eligible, the U visa allows a victim (or, in the case of manslaughter or murder, certain family members of the victim) to temporarily remain and work in the United States, generally for four years. In addition, certain family members of the U visa holder may also be eligible to live and work in the United States as derivative beneficiaries, including unmarried children under 21, a spouse, parents or unmarried siblings under 18 years old if the U visa holder is under the age of 21 years. If certain conditions are met, a U visa holder may apply for permanent residency after three years. 

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About Marie Wood

Marie is licensed to practice law in the State of California and throughout the United States in federal immigration matters. She is admitted to all California state courts, the Central, Eastern, Northern, and Southern District Courts, and Immigration Courts. Marie joined Reid & Hellyer in 2016 and practices immigration law and transactional law. She has also represented individuals and lending institutions in civil litigation matters from inception of the case to post-judgment matters, and in exercising creditor rights in bankruptcy court. Marie immigrated to this country at a young age, and is fluent in Spanish. As an immigrant, she has personal knowledge of the emotional and financial struggles faced by individuals and families during the immigration process. This personal experience is what encouraged her to become an immigration attorney. Throughout the years she has volunteered countless hours at legal clinics and other events in which she has offered pro bono legal services in both immigration and civil matters. She is also a professor and teaches legal and business courses at Palomar Community College and is a guest speaker at California State University, San Marcos. Marie is the 2016 vice-president and 2017 president-elect of the Southwest Riverside County Bar Association. She is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the AILA San Diego Chapter, the Riverside and North County Bar Associations, and the Fiorenzo V. Lopardo Chapter of the American Inns of Court. Marie received her Juris Doctor degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2009, where she graduated magna cum laude. While attending law school, she was a Notes Editor of the Thomas Jefferson Law Review, and a member of Phi Alpha Delta, the country’s oldest legal fraternity.

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