S-5/S-6 Visas for Witnesses and Informants
Purpose of S Visa / Applying for S Visa / Restrictions on S-Visa Holders / Adjustment of Status / Family Members
Purpose of S Visa
The S classification is for persons who are able to help United States law enforcement personnel by proving information about criminal or terrorist activities. There are two types of S visas: S-5 and S-6 (the Department of Homeland Security uses these codes instead of S-1 and S-2 because of prior use of S codes for visas). Any persons involved in the Nazi persecution and genocide are not eligible for S visas.
S visas are issued for three years, and no extensions may be granted.
For a person to be eligible for an S-5 visa:
- A person must be in possession of critical and reliable information about a criminal organization or enterprise;
- A person must be willing to supply, or has supplied, the information to federal or state authorities or court; and
- The Attorney General must determine that the person’s presence in the United States is essential to the success of an authorized criminal investigation or prosecution.
There are 200 S-5 visas available each year.
For a person to be eligible for an S-6 visa, both the Attorney General and the Secretary of States must agree that:
- The person is in possession of critical and reliable information about a terrorist organization, enterprise, or operation;
- The person is willing to supply, or has supplied, the information to federal law enforcement authorities or federal court;
- The person will be, or has been, placed in danger as a result of proving information; and
- The person is eligible to receive an award from the Department of State for providing the information.
There are 50 S-6 visas available each year.
Applying for S Visa
The petition for an S visa must be filed by the law enforcement agency with which the person is cooperating or a court. For purposes of the S visa, U.S. Attorney’s Offices are considered to be law enforcement agencies.
The petitioning law enforcement agency or court must file the application on Form I-854, Inter-Agency Alien Witness and Informant Record. The application must include the reason for seeking the cooperation of the witness or informant. Applications may be submitted for a person outside the United States or a person already in the country but facing deportation. If the person is outside the United States, the petitioner must agree to take responsibility for the person from the date of their admission to the United States until their departure. Accompanying family members should be listed on Form I-854.
Form I-854 is filed with the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. If the Assistant Attorney General certifies the petition, he will forward it to the Commissioner of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The highest level official in the petitioning law enforcement agency, and the U.S. Attorney with jurisdiction over the investigation or prosecution must also endorse the petition.
If the S visa is approved, the witness or informant must check in quarterly with the petitioning law enforcement agency. The witness or informant must also report any changes in telephone number, address, and travel plans.
Restrictions on S Visa Holders
While in the United States, an S visa holder must:
- Report to the petitioning law enforcement agency every three months;
- Report any changes in telephone number, address, and travel plans;
- Not be convicted of a crime that is punishable by one or more years in prison;
- Agree not to contest an order of removal or deportation by any means other than an application for withholding of removal based on a fear of persecution if forced to return home (This restriction only applies if removal or deportation proceedings have begun before the S visa holder adjusts status to permanent residency.); and
- Follow any other requirements or conditions imposed by the Attorney General.
Adjustment of Status for S Visa Holders
S visa holders are eligible to adjust their status to permanent residency if:
- The information provided by the S visa holder "substantially contributed" to the successful investigation or prosecution of a crime; or
- The information provided by the S visa holder "substantially contributed" to the prevention of an act of terrorism, or to the apprehension of a person involved in terrorist activities.
Like the original application for S visa status, the application for permanent residency must be made by the law enforcement agency on Form I-854. Once the application is approved by the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, it will be sent to the Commissioner of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After USCIS approves the application, the witness or information may apply for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
S-7 Status for Family Members of S Visa Holders
If the Attorney General or the Secretary of State determines it is appropriate, spouses (husbands and wives), married or unmarried sons or daughters, and parents may accompany the witness or informant to the United States on S-7 status. Family members admitted in S-7 status are eligible to adjust status to permanent residency.