The U Visa
I. What is a U Visa?
A “U visa” is a temporary non-immigrant status available to non-citizen victims of certain crimes. Congress created the U visa as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, in order to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute certain crimes against immigrants and to offer protection to victims who fear cooperating with law enforcement due to their immigration status.
II. What are the eligibility requirements for a U visa?
1) Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
2) the alien (or in the case of an alien child under the age of 16, the parent, guardian, or next friend of the alien) possesses information concerning the criminal activity;
3) ) the alien (or in the case of an alien child under the age of 16, the parent, guardian or next friend of the alien) has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful to a Federal, State, or local law enforcement official, to a Federal, State, or local prosecutor, to a Federal or State judge, to USCIS, or to other Federal, State, or local authorities investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity; and
4) ) the criminal activity violated the laws of the U.S. or occurred in the U.S. (including in Indian country and military institutions) or the territories and possessions of the U.S.
Qualifying crimes that constitute criminal activity include:
Domestic violence Sexual assault
Abusive sexual contact Prostitution
Sexual exploitation Female Genital Mutilation
Being held hostage Peonage
Involuntary servitude Slave trade
Kidnapping, abduction Unlawful criminal restraint
False imprisonment Blackmail, extortion
Murder, manslaughter Felonious assault
Witness tampering Obstruction of Justice
Perjury Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation
- Extend U visa nonimmigrant legal status for four years, which may, under certain circumstances.
- Opportunity to seek permanent residency (“green card”) after three years in U status.
- Employment authorization for the principal applicant.
- Derivative status for family members. If petitioner is under 21, then spouse, children, parents (only if petitioner is unmarried) and siblings under 18 at the time of filing I-918 can apply for derivative status. If petitioner is over 21, then spouse and children can apply for derivative status. Derivatives may apply for EAD either as part of the initial submission, or after receiving U status.
- Eligibility for certain public benefits.
- Travel outside the U.S., but note potential risks.
IV. How do you petition for a U visa?
In order to successfully petition for a U visa, the applicant must first obtain certification from a law enforcement agency stating that he or she is a victim and has been, is currently, or likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a qualifying criminal activity. A supervisory agent from the certifying agency must sign the certification form, Form I-918 Supplement B. After obtaining certification, the applicant must then submit a complete U visa petition to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), which has authority to grant the U visa
V. Inadmissibility Issues
In addition to establishing eligibility for the U nonimmigrant visa, all U visa applicants (including derivatives) must demonstrate that they are admissible to the United States as a nonimmigrant or that they merit a waiver of any applicable grounds of inadmissibility.
Some common grounds of inadmissibility include:
- Entering Without Inspection
- Criminal convictions
- Security grounds
- False claims to U.S. citizenship, including unlawful voting and falsification of I-9 form for employment
- Health Conditions/Substance Abuse
- Prior Deportations
- Unlawful presence
For U visa applicants, USCIS has discretion to waive all grounds of inadmissibility except (relating to Nazi persecution, genocide, torture, and extrajudicial killing), provided that the applicant can demonstrate that it is in the national or public interest to do so.