The U-Visa: An Overview

What is the U-visa?

Congress created the U-visa in an effort to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes and to feel confident in turning to local law enforcement for help. Being the victim of a crime can be a terrifying experience which may be made worse by threats of deportation if the crime is reported. The government has recognized that to fight crime, the police and prosecutors need the cooperation of victims. The U-visa was created for those who are without lawful immigration status, who have been the victim of a serious crime in the U.S. Additionally, the victim must prove that he or she has been helpful in the investigation of the crime and has suffered mental or physical harm as a result of the crime.

What are the benefits?

U-visas are typically granted for four years and provides for employment authorization during that time. After three years in U-visa status, you may be able to apply for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident and receive a green card. Additionally, you may be able to include others in your application for U-visa status. Typically, spouse and children are eligible for U-visa derivative status. For those under 21, it may be possible to include your spouse, parents, children, and unmarried siblings under 18.

Are you Eligible?

An immigrant must be the victim of a specifically enumerated serious crime that took place in the United States. Those crimes include: rape; torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, kidnapping, false imprisonment, murder, manslaughter, felonious assault, and a couple of others. There is no time limit so even if the crime happened years ago, you may still be eligible. Additionally, the immigrant must ask the law enforcement agency to sign off on his cooperation/helpfulness in the investigation. Finally, there must be proof of substantial mental or physical harm as a result of the crime. It is best to obtain a copy of the police report, gather all relevant and consult with an informed immigration attorney, such as Cristina M. Hughes, to assess your eligibility. An experienced immigration attorney will understand the particular requirements of the U-visa and which documents are commonly used to satisfy those requirements.

What is the annual limit for U-visas?

Only 10,000 U-visas may be issued per fiscal year which begins on October 1. While the cap has been met consistently for the past few years, there is a waiting list. Once the application is considered approved, those placed on a waiting list are granted deferred action and are able to apply for work permits. Travel is not typically recommended during the U-visa process. While the wait may be daunting, often, the U-visa is an option that may be a last resort and is therefore worth it.


If you or someone you know has been the victim of a crime in the U.S., the U visa may be a good option to obtain lawful status. There are advantages that come with the U-visa which are not readily available in other immigration benefits. The U-visa is one way that victims of crimes can turn a difficult situation into an opportunity to move forward into a future of stability. Contact Cristina M. Hughes, Esq. an attorney with experience with the U-visa, to discuss your future today.

Advance Parole

What is advance parole?

Most commonly, advance parole is filed with form I485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. This is the form that is filled out to apply for permanent residency or a “green card.” Advance parole allows individuals to travel outside the United States while the form is pending without abandoning the form. Certain applicants will have their case denied if they travel to a foreign country while their I485 applications are pending and they do not first obtain Advance Parole.

Who can apply?

In addition to those seeking permanent resident status, those who hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) can also apply for advance parole.

For those who have had action deferred under DACA (Form I821D), it is possible to travel abroad for educational, employment, and humanitarian purposes. Humanitarian purposes including traveling abroad for medical care as well as traveling to visit ailing relative residing abroad. Each individual purpose requires a separate type of proof relating to the reason for travel. An immigration attorney with experience, such as Cristina M. Hughes, can orient you in what type of proof is necessary to obtain the travel document.

What are the benefits?

Advance Parole is one of the only options for travel outside the United States in certain cases. Specifically, for DACA and TPS, the benefits may be larger than anticipated. First, you may travel outside the United States to take care of necessary business including visiting a sick relative or family members that you have not seen in many years. Additionally, if you are married to a United States citizen yet have not filed any forms with immigration, Advance Parole may help resolve the issue of unlawful presence in certain circumstances. This means that in certain cases, you may no longer require an unlawful presence (I601/A) waiver after your return to the United States with advance parole.

Take Precautions

While it is possible to depart and return with Advance Parole, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss the risks and benefits of applying for advance parole. Depending on the specific facts of your situation, it may be advantageous if done properly. Contact Cristina to make an appointment in our South Lake Tahoe or Carson City office to see if Advance Parole is a good fit for you.

Top Five Reasons Why Your United States Immigrant Visa Might Be Denied

If you are a Carson City area resident in the process of applying for an American visa in order to immigrate permanently to this country, you are probably familiar with the stress, worry and uneasiness that this type of application procedure can cause. After all, visas are denied all of the time to kind and honest people, seemingly without cause – could it happen to you?

The answer is yes – but a good Carson City immigration attorney will be able to guide you through the system and dramatically increase your chances of success.

Visa denial reasons are known in the legal system as “grounds of inadmissibility” and knowing in advance if you might fall afoul of any of these circumstances can truly help your success rate, as it will allow your immigration lawyer to prepare.

As of 2012, these are the top five reasons why visa applications to the U.S. were denied. 

  1. Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations – Errors, misunderstandings and mistakes are the number one reason why applications get denied – in order to decrease the odds of this happening to you, you need to consult with a skilled immigration lawyer.
  2. Labor certification – Many people dream of finding a great job in the United States and having their employer sponsor them for an immigration visa. This is a great idea in theory, but very rarely succeeds (as of 2012, the failure rate was 97%!). Your employer will have to demonstrate that no American citizen could fill the role that you are occupying – with over 320 million people in the U.S., this is very difficult to do.
  3. Unlawfully present 365 days or more – If you have been in this country unlawfully for over 365 days (or more), do not give up hope, but definitely get a great immigration attorney on your side. There are waivers available to cure this ground of inadmissibility. It is best to consult an immigration attorney before submitting any paperwork or departing the United States to attend an interview at a consular post abroad.
  4. Misrepresentation – Rule number one: do not lie! Even if you have to include some undesirable information, it is best to be completely honest in order to prevent being denied under the category “misrepresentation.” If you lie or misrepresent yourself or your situation and you are caught (and you will be caught) you will face an 80% denial rate. It is not worth the risk!
  5. Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations – If you have been caught in violation of immigration law in the past (i.e. you were ordered removed or deported and then tried to enter the U.S. illegally), you will need to wait at least ten years before even applying for permission to apply for another US immigration visa. With that said, some people do take a risk and apply again before the ten years is up – they are denied 100% of the time.

If you have an immigration-related question, or are seeking legal counsel then reach out to our team here, or call us at 775-453-4451.

Disclaimer: Information contained in the blog and in this website is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

5 Tips for Choosing an Immigration Lawyer in Carson City

If you are looking to hire an immigration lawyer in the Carson City area, there are a few things that you should consider as you go through your selection process.

One of the most common questions we get is, “do I need an immigration lawyer at all?” After all, you could save money by attempting this complex process on your own. If your case is fairly straightforward, this is something you could attempt to do without professional assistance – that said, there are some very good reasons why you should enlist the help of an immigration lawyer.

  • They can help you if any snags arise
  • They are experts at filling out forms and documents
  • They can provide you with ‘make or break’ advice
  • They can greatly improve your chances of success

If you are in the process of choosing an immigration lawyer in Carson City, here are some valuable tips that will help you to make an informed decision. 

  1. Ask your friends and family for references – One of the best ways to choose any service provider is to ask your Carson City area friends and family for their suggestions. If an immigration lawyer has done a fantastic job for someone you know, they should move to the top of your short list.
  2. Conduct a search on the AILA website – It is always good to search for a lawyer on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website – this ensures that you are selecting a lawyer who is in good standing with the bar, and – most importantly – someone who cares enough about immigration law to belong to the national association. They can help you to find a lawyer or narrow your search.
  3. Compare fees – Now that you have narrowed down your choices to a few great lawyers, it is a good time to compare their fee schedules. Do they charge by the hour? Do they work on a flat fee? How much can you afford, and how much is a successful application worth to you and your family? These pricing factors may help you make your decision.
  4. Interview the lawyers on your short list – This is the perfect time to book a brief consultation with the lawyers on your short list – one of the best ways to make the final decision is based on how you get along with the individual and how you feel about their service in person.
  5. Check their credentials – The final step you should take before signing any contract or officially hiring your Carson City Immigration Lawyer? Check their credentials and ensure that they are currently licensed, in good standing and if they have ever faced a disciplinary action for misconduct.

Once you have gone through these five simple steps, it is time to hire your immigration lawyer. These tips will greatly improve your chances of success, and we wish you the best of luck in your endeavor.