I’ve been very lucky. In over five years of practice, I have never had a U visa denied. But, when U visas make up one-third of your practice, a denial is bound to happen at some point.
We filed an application for Juana (name changed) in the summer of 2013. Her niece had been kidnapped and assaulted by an ex-boyfriend.
The ex-boyfriend dropped the niece off at her uncle’s home just as the entire family had congregated at the house because they were worried they hadn’t heard about the niece in over a day.
The ex-boyfriend not only dropped off the niece, but he got out of the car and started threatening everyone there with a gun. Juana saw the ex-boyfriend. He pointed the gun at her and even pulled the trigger, but either the gun wasn’t loaded or the gun jammed.
When the police came out, their main concern was for the niece. She was the direct victim and she had clearly endured a horrific past 24 hours.
There are U visas available for people who are not direct victims. Indirect victims are the parents of a minor victim, the spouse, or the child of the direct victim. Indirect victims can apply for a U visa.
Bystanders can also apply for a U visa, but these cases are harder to get approved. Generally, a bystander has to suffer truly extreme harm as a result of seeing a crime happen. The most common example is when a pregnant woman sees a crime and the stress forces her into early labor.
In Juana’s case, USCIS decided that Juana was not a direct victim, an indirect victim, or a bystander victim. In the denial, they cited the U certification which referenced that Juana had witnessed the event. USCIS found that there was no supporting evidence regarding the fact that she had the gun pointed at her.
Thankfully, U visas can be appealed. So that’s exactly what we did. We got new statements from other witnesses saying Juana had been threatened with the gun. We were able to get a new U certification that emphasized the role Juana played in the event.
We didn’t dispute that the niece was the main victim in this incident, but there were many other victims that day. Juana was a direct victim.
We knew from the outset that it would be a difficult case to win since Juana was not the focus of the crime or police report. However, when we saw why USCIS denied the case, we knew we had strong evidence to overcome their concerns.
We put together the strongest appeal we have, and now we wait.
We will keep you updated whether our first U visa denial will have a happy ending after all.