U Non-immigrant Visa: Victims of Criminal Activity
The “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act” of 2000 introduced “U” visa for immigrant victims of serious crimes. It was created due to rising public safety concerns, with the idea that foreign victims of crimes in the U.S. should be allowed to remain so as to provide law enforcement officials with information helpful in apprehending and prosecuting criminal offenders.
If you are granted U status, you will be given the opportunity to stay in the U.S. for up to four years and you may also be eligible for permanent residence (a “green card”) after three years of continuous presence in the United States.
Eligibility for U visas
In order to apply for a U visa using Form I-918, Petition for U Non-immigrant Status, you must meet the following criteria and provide substantial evidence to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- You must have been a victim of a “qualifying criminal activity*,” and this crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. law. Indirect and bystander victims are also eligible to apply in certain circumstances. However, it is not enough to simply state that you have been a victim of a serious crime in order to get a U visa.
- In the course of this criminal activity, you must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse.
- You have useful information about this criminal activity (or if under age 16, your parent, guardian or “next friend” such as a counselor or social worker can provide this information for you).
- You will need to provide a “certificate of helpfulness” from a qualifying government agency and prove that you suffered mental or physical abuse by a U.S. perpetrator.
- You are admissible to the United States or you are applying for a waiver using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
* Qualifying Criminal Activity includes violent crimes, enslavement crimes, sexual crimes, obstruction of justice crimes and Fraud in foreign labor contracting.
Qualifying Family Members may be eligible for Derivative U Visas
Certain family members may be eligible to become derivative U visa recipients if the principal petitioner’s application is approved. These include your:
- unmarried children under age 21;
- parents (if principal petitioner is under age 21); and
- unmarried siblings under 18 years old (if principal petitioner is under age 21).
Principal U non-immigrant petitioners are authorized to work in the U.S. incident to their status, after the underlying petition for U non-immigrant status is approved and an employment authorization document is automatically issued without filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
Applying for a Green Card
You may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (adjustment of status/permanent residence) if you meet certain requirements, including:
- You have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years while in U non-immigrant status; and
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.