Hurwitz Holt, APLC files its first U visa appeal and wins!
In November 2014, Hurwitz Holt, APLC successfully appealed a denied U visa petition on behalf of a long-time client. The U visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa for people who are victims of certain crimes and who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. The applicant must also demonstrate that they have suffered substantial mental and/or physical abuse as a result of their victimization. Someone with a U visa can remain lawfully in the United States for 4 years and work legally. After the third year, the U visa holder is eligible to apply for their green card (provided they meet additional requirements) and live in the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
In this case, the client was a victim of a crime not specifically listed in the U visa statute, but very similar to a crime that is listed. The U visa regulations allow for people who are victims of “similar” crimes to those listed in the statute to apply for the visa. Our client was brutally attacked and knocked briefly unconscious by a man he knew, while he rode as a passenger in a car driven by his wife and with his 3 small children (who were then 7, 4, and 2 years old) who sat in the backseat. Our client had asked his wife to pull over so he could speak to the man, which is how the attack occurred. During the attack, the perpetrator threatened our client and his family and ultimately knocked our client unconscious by punching him in the face through the rolled down passenger window. Client’s three young children were crying hysterically in the back seat. While our client’s wife attempted to drive away, the perpetrator hit their car with a baseball bat and sent his pit bull to chase the family, who lived just a few blocks away. Moments later, our client provided a statement to police about the incident and as a result, the man was arrested and charged criminally in court.
Our office filed the initial U visa petition in April 2013 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for deciding whether or not to approve a U visa. In January 2014, USCIS required our office to provide more evidence as to how our client was a victim of qualifying criminal activity. We thoroughly responded to the request, but in June 2014, USCIS denied the petition on the grounds that it still did not believe our client was a victim of qualifying criminal activity. Our office promptly appealed USCIS’s decision with a comprehensive brief that pointed out numerous legal and factual errors in the initial denial, and which persuasively demonstrated how our client was a victim of qualifying criminal activity, and that it would be an injustice to deny him the U visa particularly considering he met every other eligibility requirement. Several months later, in November 2014, USCIS reversed its position, finding that we had in fact demonstrated our client was a victim of qualifying criminal activity, and granted him a U visa.
Our client has now come out of the shadows, is no longer living in fear of deportation and separation from his family, and is working full-time to support his three young children, all while knowing that in three years’ time, he can apply for his green card and eventually, to become a U.S. citizen. Our client never gave up hope and fought long and hard for an immigration benefit that he, and our office, believed he deserved from the very beginning. And, the visa couldn’t have come at a better time – just days before Thanksgiving. Our office and our client are thrilled at our success and we hope to help many more people like this client in the future.