The U Nonimmigrant Status, also known as a U-Visa, was created with the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act. The U-Visa allows crime victims who have suffered mental or physical abuse some protections from deportation and removal from the United States. The legislation was intended to improve the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of noncitizens, and other violent criminal conduct by ensuring immigrant victims can safely and voluntarily help law enforcement investigate and prosecute these cases. If the U-Visa application is approved, you will be allowed to live and work in the U.S. for up to four years. You may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (a Green Card) after a period of time.
Are you Eligible for a U-Visa?
You may be eligible for a U-Visa if:
- You are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
- You suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” from criminal activity. This can be proven through medical records, evaluations, or an affidavit from a mental health professional.
- You possess helpful information about criminal activity.
- You are likely to cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The crime occurred in the United States (or violated United States law).
- You can be admitted to the U.S. (or are eligible for a waiver using Form I-192)
What is Qualifying Criminal Activity?
A Qualifying Criminal Activity can include the following:
- Domestic Violence
- Abduction, Kidnapping, or False Imprisonment
- Abusive Sexual Conduct, Sexual Assault, Rape
- Blackmail or Extortion
- Labor Crimes, Human Trafficking, Slave Trade
- Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation
- Stalking, Torture, Trafficking
- Murder or Manslaughter
- Obstructing Justice and Witness Tampering
- Felony Assault
- Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these crimes.
This list is not exhaustive and can include other related crimes that victimize immigrants. It is important to contact an attorney to determine your eligibility.
How to Apply for a U-Visa
- Complete a Form I-918 (Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status)
- Complete Form I-918 Supplement B Certification. This must be signed by an authorized law enforcement official to confirm you will be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
- If you are not admissible, File a Form I-192 for advance permission to enter the U.S.
- Present a personal Statement describing how you were a victim of specific criminal activity.
- Supply evidence and substantiation as required by Citizen and Immigration Services.
Family Members May Also Qualify
Qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U-Visa based on their relationship with the victim who is filing for a U-Visa. Once a U-Visa is approved, family members may be eligible for the derivative U-Visa.
To petition for a qualified family member, you must file a Form I-918, Supplement A (Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient. This can be done at the same time as the principal application or at a later time.
If you are under 21, you may petition on behalf of your spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under the age of 18.
If you are 21 years of age or older, you may petition on behalf of your spouse and children.
It is important to remember the U-Visa process can be complex and lengthy. US visa wait times can be long. There are annual limits to the number of U-Visa applications approved across the U.S. The assistance of a qualified attorney is critical to a successful U-Visa application, especially considering the filing and law enforcement certification requirements. Immigration laws and policies frequently change, so it is important to have the most current information of USCIS. More information on U-Visas, fees, extensions, limitations, and victim resources can be found at: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/victims-of-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status.