All You Need to Know About the U Visa

Certain victims of criminal activity may be eligible to apply for a U visa to protect themselves as well as their qualifying family members. In this article, you will learn more about the U visa, U visa requirements, the U visa application process, and the benefits you and qualifying family members would receive if you apply for a U visa and receive it. If you have questions about how to apply for a U visa after reading this article, contact Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C. 

What Is a U Visa?

A U visa is a humanitarian visa designed to protect victims of criminal activity and qualifying family members. U visas were created in October of 2000 when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which also included the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act. It grants U nonimmigrant status to qualifying crime victims and their family members.

There are several U visa requirements that must be met according to Citizenship and Immigration Services. Provided that this is done and that you assist law enforcement to the best of your ability to investigate and/or prosecute the crime, your nonimmigrant visa may be granted. Then, after a specified time, you may qualify to file a form for permanent residence or adjust status for a green card.

U Visa Requirements

To qualify to begin the U visa application, you must be a victim of a qualifying crime. According to immigration services USICS, qualifying crimes include:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive sexual contact
  • Blackmail
  • Extortion
  • Domestic violence
  • False imprisonment
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Fraud related to foreign labor contracting
  • Being held hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Peonage
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Slavery
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness tampering
  • Unlawful criminal restraint

The USICS website also states that other related crimes also qualify "other related crimes" as being acceptable for a visa application. This includes a similar activity that has elements of the above crimes that are substantially similar. One of the important points to keep in mind here is that the qualifying crime occurred in the United States or it violated the laws of the United States.

You must also have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the qualifying crime and be willing to assist law enforcement to investigate and, if possible, prosecute the person or persons responsible for the crime(s).

However, if you are under the age of 16 years or if you have a disability, you may be exempt from working with law enforcement in this manner.

You must also be eligible to be admitted into the United States. If you aren't, you may be eligible to be admitted via Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

About the U Visa Application Process

You can apply for a U visa whether you are inside or outside of the United States. If you are not in the United States, you will need to file the following forms and have your fingerprints taken at the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate. You will also need to complete an interview with a consular officer at a later date.

The first form to complete to apply for a U visa is Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. Fill out the entire document otherwise, USICS might reject it. The only exception is if a field is marked as optional. Provide an answer, even if you must answer it as "unknown" or "none." There is no fee required to file this form.

The second form to complete is Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. You must have it signed by a law enforcement agency that is authorized to certify the document. Certifying authorities include local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, and other legal authorities whose job it is to investigate or prosecute alleged criminal activities.

Their signature certifies that you were helpful, you are currently being helpful, or that you are likely to be helpful in the future in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.  Again, do not leave anything blank unless it is an optional field. If necessary, answer "unknown" or "none."

You must also write a personal statement that explains what happened to you as the victim of a qualifying crime. You must also produce evidence of some kind to support your statement and your U visa application. You may need to show evidence that you are a victim of a qualifying crime, that you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse, and that you have information about the crime and that the crime qualified and violated United States law or that it occurred in the United States (this should be covered by Form I-918, Supplement B, but if it occurred outside of the United States, it could be helpful for you to have additional documents). A few examples may include trial transcripts, newspaper articles, police reports, affidavits from people with personal knowledge of the crime, your injuries (such as a caseworker or social worker), restraining orders, or photographs of your injuries.

Qualifying family members depends on your age. If you are under the age of 21 years old, you can apply for a U visa for your spouse, children, parents, and for your unmarried siblings who are under the age of 18 years. If you are 21 years of age or older, you can apply for a U visa for your spouse and your children. For each qualified family member, you must file Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient. Do not leave any blanks unless the field is marked "optional." Blank fields can get the application rejected. You can file this form along with your visa application or later.

USICS recommends anyone seeking to learn about U visa updates look on their official site. Their site states that U visa processing times can be checked online as all U visas are processed by the Vermont Service Center. The estimated time range without checking on an individual case status is 57 months as of November 2020. If you have an attorney, they can email USICS directly with an inquiry to learn more about your status.

U Visa Benefits

There are several benefits to receiving a U visa.

  • You can remain in the United States for up to four years.
  • You can submit an application to register as a permanent resident to receive a green card in three years.
  • You will be authorized to work in the United States.
  • Your qualifying family members who are approved for U visas will receive derivative benefits.
  • Depending on your income and need, you may qualify for public benefits.

Get Help With Your U Visa Application

If you are interested in applying for a U visa, Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C. is here to help. Our immigration attorneys understand the complexities involved in immigration law. We can assist you through the process and in dealing with immigration services. To learn more about how to apply for a U visa, green cards, or immigration law, schedule your consultation with a member of our immigration lawyers. You don't have to fight alone. Call us, text us, or complete our form. We're here to help. 

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MBJ Staff

Written by MBJ Staff