A U visa is a special humanitarian visa. U Visa requirements are different from other nonimmigrant visa requirements. Congress created this visa to help protect certain victims of criminal activities and their immediate families. In this article, you'll learn more about the U visa requirements. If you have questions about U visas or the immigration process after reading this article, schedule your consultation with one of our immigration attorneys.

U Visa Requirements

In October 2000, Congress created the U visa when they passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which also included the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act. Here are the specific U visa requirements that must be met to qualify for this humanitarian visa.

You Are the Victim of a Qualifying Crime

Both the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act cover specific crimes. Those crimes include:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive sexual contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic abuse
  • Extortion
  • False imprisonment
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Felonious assault
  • Fraud in foreign labor contracting
  • Being held as a hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Debt slavery (peonage)
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Slave trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness tampering
  • Unlawful criminal restraint
  • Similar related crimes such as the attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit the listed crimes or related crimes

You will need to show evidence that you were or are a victim. The type of evidence that you present depends on the crime and what you can access. Examples could include trial transcripts, articles from newspapers, copies of police reports, protection orders issued by a court, etc.

In addition to applying for yourself, you may also be able to apply for a U visa for a qualifying immediate family member. This is done by completing Form I-918, Supplement A. You will also need to include credible documentation of your relationship. If you are under 21 years old and you are the principal applying for the U visa, you can also submit a petition for your spouse, children, parents, and any unmarried siblings who are under the age of 18 years old. If you are the principal applying for the U visa, you can also submit a petition on behalf of your spouse and children.

You Suffered Significant Physical or Mental Abuse as a Victim

In addition to being the victim of a qualifying crime as defined as USIC, you must have suffered from significant physical or mental abuse because of it. Unfortunately, this can be a high bar for many victims and survivors. This is especially true depending on the crime that was committed. Examples of evidence may include photos of injuries, medical records that document injuries, affidavits or reports from a case or social worker, police reports, and affidavits from others with personal knowledge of the situation.

If you do not have evidence, you may be able to submit a written statement to explain the reason or reasons why you don't have it. Don't let the lack of reports or photographs stop you from seeking safety for yourself or your family.  

You Have Personal Knowledge of the Criminal Activity

As someone seeking a U visa, you must have personal knowledge about the crime. When you apply for a U visa, you must complete a personal statement (I-918B) that is certified by a law enforcement agency. The agency may be a federal agency or a state agency. When they complete their certification, they are promising the USCIS that you are the victim of a crime, suffered physical or mental abuse as a victim and that you have actual details (personal knowledge) of the criminal activity.

You must provide as much information about the crime as you can, including the date and location. You'll also be asked to provide the names of the family members who committed the crime. This information must be considered reliable by law enforcement in order for the I-918B to be certified.

If you are under the age of 16 years old or if you are looking into the U visa requirements for someone who has a disability or who is unable to complete the process on their own, a parent, guardian, or someone who qualifies as a "next friend" may be able to complete the U visa application process with law enforcement. A "next friend" is defined as an individual who appears in court on behalf of another person who is not legally competent. The person who is not legally competent is usually a minor or someone who is considered incompetent. They are not someone who is a party to the proceeding and they are not a legal guardian.

It's also important that you cooperate with law enforcement. To receive the certification from law enforcement that is required for the I-918B, USIC states law enforcement must determine that the applicant must be deemed that they "[are], ware, or is likely to be helpful in the detection or investigation of the qualifying crime or criminal activity, or the prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the perpetrator of the qualifying crime or criminal activity."

The Crime Violated US Laws

The crime occurred either in the United States or it must have violated US laws. As the applicant, you do not have to be within the United States (or its territories or possessions) to apply for a U visa. The crime also does not need to take place within the US, its territories, or its possessions. If the crime is on the list for the U visa, it violates the laws of the United States. U visa regulations do not list a specific statute of limitations for any of the crimes.

You Meet Admissibility Requirements to Come to the US

Like other visas, you must meet certain admissibility requirements to come to the US. Common reasons why people are denied entry to the United States include criminal convictions and immigration violations. However, because a U visa is a humanitarian visa, you can ask for a waiver if you do not meet the usual requirements to come to the United States.  This is done by completing Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant. The current filing fee for this waiver is $930. If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may qualify for a waiver. The specific waiver for Form I-912 can be found on the USIC website here.

What Happens Once Your U Visa Is Approved?

If your U visa is approved by USIC, you'll be designated as a U nonimmigrant. You will be able to obtain a work permit as well as identification. You will also be able to obtain a social security card. Depending on your income, you may also qualify for public assistance.

Applying for a Green Card After Receiving a U Visa

You may be eligible to apply for your Green Card to become a permanent resident after you receive your U visa if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are the principal who applied for the card and you were remained in the US for a minimum of three continuous years while in U nonimmigrant status
  • You did not unreasonably refuse to provide law enforcement with assistance regarding the crime for which you received your U visa.

For family members of “deriving status” seeking permanent residency status, it depends on the circumstances. Generally, Form I-485 is used if they are on the “deriving status” of the U visa.

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Natalia Riveros-Jacobsen

Written by Natalia Riveros-Jacobsen

Natalia Riveros-Jacobsen, originally from Bogotá Colombia, serves as an associate at Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C where she focuses her immigration law practice on deportation, family and employment based immigrant petitions at the firm’s Oklahoma City law office.