U Visas/U Nonimmigrant Status for Immigrant Victims of Crimes
Purpose of U Visa/U Nonimmigrant Status
The U visa is for immigrants who have been victims of a crime and assist or are willing to assist U.S. authorities in investigating and/or prosecuting that crime. Up to 10,000 U visas may be issued each fiscal year (October 1 – September 30).
U visas are issued for four years. After three years, U visa holders may be eligible to adjust status to permanent residency.
To be eligible to apply for a U visa, a person must:
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of certain types of crimes;
- Possess information about that criminal activity;
- Provide a certification from a law enforcement official, prosecutor, or judge that the person has been, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity; and
- Show that the criminal activity violated the laws of the United States
An immigrant who has been the victim of one of the following crimes or a crime similar to the ones on this list may be eligible for a U visa:
rape; torture; trafficking; incest; 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; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these crimes.
Victims of domestic violance may apply for a U visa. Unlike abused immigrants who are applying for immigration status by filing an I-360 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Petition, U visa applicants do not have to show that their abuser is a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident. Also, U visa applicants do not have to be currently or recently married to their abuser, which is another requirement of VAWA Petitions.
Applying for a U Visa/U Nonimmigrant Status
Immigrant victims of crime who want to apply for U nonimmigrant status must file Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status with the Vermont Service Center of the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Generally the following documents should be included with the U visa petition:
- A cover letter explaining everything included in the application and why the applicant qualifies for a U visa;
- The applicant’s declaration describing the physical and/or mental abuse the applicant suffered and how the applicant meets each requirement for the U visa;
- Some form of personal identification, which may include passport copies, birth certificates, and/or copies of Form I-94, Arrival and Departure Card;
- Documentation regarding the criminal activity, which should include a U Visa Certification Form and may include a police report of the crime, a restraining order and related documents or declarations used to obtain the restraining order; or a copy of the statute governing the crime.
- A U Visa Certification Form is vital to a U visa application and may be completed by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency, prosecutor, judge or other authority that investigates or prosecutes criminal activity. The certification must be signed within six months of the date of the U visa application. While there is no official U Visa Certification Form, the certification must state that the applicant was the victim of a U visa crime, identify the crime(s) the applicant was a victim of, and must confirm that the applicant has been, is being, or likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime(s).
- Documentation of substantial physical and/or mental abuse, which may include the applicant’s declaration, the declarations of witnesses to the abuse, the declarations of police officers and/or health care workers, medical reports, evidence of appointments with counselors and/or shelters; and/or photographs showing the abuse.
U Visa Interim Relief Program
Although Congress passed the law creating U visas in 2000, U visas were unavailable for many years because the government failed to issue U visa regulations. During these years, immigrant victims of crime that wanted to apply for a U visa were granted U visa interim relief. The U visa interim relief program is no longer available. Immigrants who were granted U visa interim relief should file a U visa petition.
U.S. Permanent Residency/Adjustment of Status for U Visa Holders
U visas are valid for only four years. One benefit to obtaining a U visa is that the U visa holder may eventually apply for U.S. permanent residency. To qualify for permanent residency, the U visa holder:
- Must have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years.
The three years start from the date the applicant was granted U visa status.
- Must establish that his or her continued presence in the United States is justified on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity, or in the best interest of the public.
- Cannot unreasonably refuse to assist law enforcement authorities once he or she receives a U visa.
Family Members of U Visa Holders
If a U visa applicant is under the age of 21, the applicant’s husband or wife, children, unmarried brother or sisters under the age of 18, and parents may apply for U visa derivative status. If the U visa applicant is over the age of 21, only the applicant’s husband or wife and children may apply for U visa derivative status.