What are U Visas?
The U Visa (or U Nonimmigrant Status) was created by Congress in 2000 through the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. The Act was designed to provide assistance to law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting serious and violent crimes, while also supporting and protecting the non-native victims of such crimes who might otherwise not report the crime or testify against their attackers, due to fear of being deported.
Who Qualifies for a U Visa?
There are six requirements, all of which must be satisfied, for determining whether or not someone can apply for a U Visa:
- The applicant must have been the victim (or the immediate relative of the victim) of a serious crime, such as domestic violence, extortion, assault, abduction, trafficking, or murder. A full list of qualifying crimes can be seen here on the USCIS site.
- The victim must have experienced severe physical or mental injury as a result of the crimes.
- The applicant must have useful information regarding the crime that occurred.
- The applicant was, is, or likely will be helpful to a law enforcement agency’s investigation and prosecution of the crime.
- The crime violated U.S. laws and/or occurred in the United States.
- The applicant is admissible to the U.S. under current immigration law. If the applicant is not currently admissible, they may apply for a waiver using Form I-192, the Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.
It should be noted that the United States caps the number of U Visas issued every year at 10,000 visas, though this cap does not apply to those granted nonimmigrant status through their relationship with a family member qualifying for a U Visa.
How Do You Apply for a U Visa?
There are several forms that must be submitted to the USCIS in order to apply for a U Visa:
- Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, which is the main application document for a U Visa
- Form I-918, Supplement B. This is a “certificate of helpfulness” that must be filled out and signed by a qualifying member of a law enforcement agency—such as federal/state/city law enforcement, a prosecutor or judge, child protective services, etc.—certifying that you have or will be helpful to the investigation and prosecution of the accused.
- A personal statement from the applicant, describing the crime that occurred
- If the applicant is inadmissible to the U.S., the Form I-192 mentioned above must be completed and included as well.
- Additional forms which establish that the applicant meets all eligibility requirements.
What family members of a crime victim are eligible for a U Visa?
While family members of a U Visa applicant cannot apply for a U Visa on their own behalf, the main applicant can also petition on the behalf of certain family members. Applicants who are under 21 years old can petition for the inclusion of their parents, unmarried siblings under 18 years old, children, and spouse. Applicants over the age of 21 can petition for their spouse and children.
Can I apply for a green card if I get a U Visa? Can I work with a U Visa?
U Visas are normally valid for four years, and automatically grant the recipient the right to work in the United States. After remaining in the United States for three years and continuing to provide any necessary ongoing assistance to law enforcement, a U Visa holder may apply for an adjustment of status to become a permanent resident of the United States (often referred to as a green card). Adjustment of status based on U visas may require some additional forms, documents, and affidavits particular to this specific process.