What is a U Visa?
A U-Visa, also referred to as U nonimmigrant status, is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who are victims of crimes or who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse while in the United States and who are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation and prosecution of this criminal activities. This visa lasts for up to 4 years and does not grant citizenship. Individuals who have a U-Visa can later apply for citizenship if they qualify.
- There are four types of U-Visas which you or your immediate family can apply for:
- U-1 visa: for persons that were the victims of crime. There are only 10,000 U-1 visas issued per year, but there are no limits on the number of U-2, U-3, or U-4 visas administered.
- U-2 visa: for spouses of U-1 applicants (same-sex spouses qualify, but you must be legally married or in a common-law marriage at the time you submit your application)
- U-3 visa: for children of U-1 applicants
- U-4 visa: for parents of U-1 applicants under the age of 18.
Benefits of a U-Visa:
- It allows the holder to legally live in the United States for four years, with the ability to apply for a green card after three years.
- Permission to work in the United States
- Eligibility for immediate family members to be eligible for a U-Visa
- Some visa holders will be eligible for certain public benefits in states such as California or New York
What does a nonimmigrant status mean?
- While under the U-Visa you will not be considered an immigrant of the United States, after three years of continuous physical presence in the United States, a U-Visa holder (of any type) may be eligible to adjust their status and become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Do I qualify for a U-Visa?
There are three requirements for a U-Visa.
You must have:
- Been a victim of a crime in the United States.
- Helped the police and/or prosecutors.
- Been physically or mentally hurt by the crime.
What Crimes Qualify for U-Visa?
Qualifying criminal activities to apply for a U-Visa include:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Felonious assault
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Hostage situations
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful criminal restraint, or other related crimes, including attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation of any of the offenses listed above.
If you do not have immigration papers, have stayed in the US after their papers have expired, are outside the US, or have committed a crime or been deported, you can still apply for a U-Visa. If you or an immediate family member is a detainee of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), please call the hotline at (855)-448-6903 to let them know that you are applying for a U-Visa.
How do I begin the process?
- The first step to beginning your U-Visa process would be to contact a lawyer to begin the required forms for your U-1 Visa. The lawyer will help you to fill out these forms and build your application. Processing for the U-Visa application may take anywhere between 6-9 months after the application is submitted.
The U-Visa Process:
- The individual must first be the victim of, experience, or have knowledge about the crime which qualifies them for a U-Visa
- It is recommended that the individual then consult an attorney for assistance in the legal process.
- The individual will then complete the online visa application, Form DS-160 to complete the online visa application. You must print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview, as well as upload a photo for your application process. At this time you will also complete applications for any other individuals who would be applying for U-2, U-3, or U-4 Visas
- If the applicant is between the ages of 14 and 79, there is a required interview as part of your petition. Individuals aged 13 and under or those 80 and older may be requested for an interview as well, but they are generally not required. You must schedule your appointment for a Visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. Do not wait for the U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you. Wait times for an interview can range from 2 days to 2 months.
- Gather all required documentation before your interview. Necessary documentation includes:
- Your passport (which must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States).
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
- Form I-797, Notice of Action, from USCIS indicating approval of a U nonimmigrant petition.
- Review the instructions on how to apply for a visa at the embassy which you are applying, as additional documentation may be necessary.
- Attend your visa interview. During this interview, the officer will take an ink-free digital fingerprint scan. After your interview, your application may require further administrative processing, which your consular officer will inform you of. When the visa is approved, you may pay a visa issuance fee and will have your passport returned to you.
What forms do I need?
- Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
- Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. Form I-918, Supplement B, must be signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency (PDF) and the official must confirm that you were helpful, and currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case.
- If any inadmissibility issues are present, you must file a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant, to request a waiver of the inadmissibility;
- A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim
- Evidence to establish each eligibility requirement – visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Forms section, specifically the Humanitarian Benefits Based Forms.
Are there fees for these forms?
- All U nonimmigrant status applications are free but may be subject to a $160 filing fee. You may request a fee waiver for any other form that is necessary for your U nonimmigrant status application (petition) by filing a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by including your own written request for a fee waiver with your application or petition.
Other important information:
- If the Department of Homeland Security revokes a principal petitioner’s U-1 nonimmigrant status, all family members deriving U nonimmigrant status from the revoked U-1 petitioner will have their status revoked as well.
Should I hire a lawyer?
- Having a lawyer to help you navigate these complicated legal pathways would be extremely advisable, especially if you do not speak English fluently.
Do I need to speak English to undergo this process?
- No, you do not need to be able to speak English, however, having a translator who is proficient in English as well as your language would be a large help for communication with your lawyer and the court in this process. Your translator does not have to be certified but does have to be proficient in both languages.
Helpful External Links for More Information:
- US Department of State: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/other-visa-categories/visas-for-victims-of-criminal-activity.html
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/victims-human-trafficking-other-crimes/victims-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status/victims-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
- Department of Homeland Security: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/U-Visa-Immigration-Relief-for-Victims-of-Certain-Crimes.pdf