Natty Shafer Law

Utah lawyer for criminal and immigration cases


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Utah’s Same-sex Marriages Eligible for Immigration Benefits

Last Friday, the Department of Justice released a video (embedded below) that states explicitly the federal government will treat Utah’s same-sex marriages as “lawful and considered eligible for all federal benefits.” Currently, same-sex marriage licenses are not being issued in Utah, but couples that are already married are eligible for immigration benefits. Among those benefits are a higher priority for the receipt of green cards (i.e. permanent resident cards) and a shorter wait time to become a U.S. citizen.

For couples who can no longer become married in Utah but would like to be, it is possible to be married in other states. New Mexico and California are the closest states that currently perform same-sex marriages. Although Utah will not recognize those marriages either, the federal government will. The federal government recognizes marriages that were legal at the time the were performed, regardless of where the couples move or travel afterward.


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U Visas

The U Visa (officially “U nonimmigrant status”) is a humanitarian program intended for crime victims. It allows victims to work and stay legally in the United State for four years, with the possibility of renewal. After three years, a U Visa holder may apply for a permanent resident card (green card) if they have lived continuously in the U.S. for that period, and they cooperated with law enforcement with the the prosecution of their case or any other investigations. Unlike some other visa applications, there is no filing fee for the U Visa, and undocumented immigrants are eligible to apply.

Not all crime victims are eligible, but many are, depending on the severity of the crime and where it occurred. The law requires that the victim suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime, and it has to have violated U.S. law, which generally requires that it occurred in the U.S. Victims of domestic abuse are one of the more frequent applicants, but many other crimes qualify too, such as assault, rape, or involuntary servitude.

Law limits the number of U Visas to 10,000 each fiscal year, which ends the last day of September. That limit has not yet been reached this year, but if last year is any indication, it will be reached a few weeks before the fiscal year ends.

Family members who accompany the U Visa applicant may be eligible for a U Derivative Visa. The U Visa “principal” must petition on behalf of qualifying family members. If a U Visa applicant is under the age of 21, the applicant’s spouse, children, parents and unmarried brothers and sisters under the age of 18 may apply. If the U Visa applicant is over the age of 21, only the applicant’s spouse and children may apply.

If you think you or a family member qualify for a U Visa, see an immigration lawyer to help you with the application. In Utah, many undocumented immigrants are afraid to go to the police when they have been victimized, but going to the police is necessary to getting a U Visa and legally remaining in the United States.