What is the U Visa and how do I qualify for one?
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes. Read more frequently asked questions about U visa here.
If you are being abused by your U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident spouse, read our section on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) application.
Am I eligible to obtain a U nonimmigrant visa from USCIS?
You may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if:
- You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity; see chart below.
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
- You have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf
- You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- You are admissible to the United States. If you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver by submitting an application for advance permission to enter as a nonimmigrant.
What are the qualifying criminal activities that would make me eligible for a U visa?
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
How do I apply for U nonimmigrant status (U Visa)?
To apply or petition for a U nonimmigrant status, you must submit:
- Petition for U Nonimmigrant status
- Supplement B, must be signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency and the official must confirm that you were helpful, and currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case.
- If any inadmissibility issues are present, you must file an application for advance permission to enter as a nonimmigrant and request a waiver of the inadmissibility;
- A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim; and
- Evidence to establish each eligibility requirement
You may also apply (petition) for U nonimmigrant status if you are outside the United States. To do this, you must:
- File all the necessary forms for U nonimmigrant status with the Vermont Service Center.
- Follow all instructions that are sent from the Vermont Service Center, which will include having your fingerprints taken at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- If your petition is approved, you must go through consular processing to enter the United States, which will include an interview with a consular officer at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Information about your nearest United States Embassy or Consulate can be found at www.usembassy.gov.
How can I file to obtain a U.S. visa for my qualifying family members?
Certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship to you, the principal, filing for the U visa. The principal petitioner must have their petition for a U visa approved before their family members can be eligible for their own derivative U visa.
|If you, the principal, are…||Then…|
|Under 21 years of age||You may petition on behalf of your spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18|
|21 years of age or older||You may petition on behalf of your spouse and children.|
To petition for a qualified family member, you must file a petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient, supplement A at the same time as your application or at a later time.
Are there fees to file U nonimmigrant status applications or U visa extensions?
All U nonimmigrant status applications (petitions) are free. You may request a fee waiver for any other form that is necessary for your U nonimmigrant status application (petition) by filing a request for a fee waiver, or by including your own written request for a fee waiver with your application or petition.
Can I extend my U Visa with USCIS?
When U nonimmigrant status is granted, it is valid for four years. However, extensions are available in certain, very limited circumstances. Extensions may be given if:
- Needed based on a request from law enforcement,
- Needed based on exceptional circumstances,
- Needed due to delays in consular processing, or
- Automatically extended upon the filing and pendency of an application for adjustment (application for a Green Card).
Does the United States limit the number of U visas given to victims of abuse?
The limit on the number of U visas that may be granted to principal petitioners each year is 10,000. However, there is no cap for family members deriving status from the principal applicant, such as spouses, children, or other eligible family members.
What will happen to me if there are no more U visas to give?
If the cap is reached before all U nonimmigrant petitions have been adjudicated, USCIS will create a waiting list for any eligible principal or derivative petitioners that are awaiting a final decision and a U visa. Petitioners placed on the waiting list will be granted deferred action or parole and are eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting for additional U visas to become available.
Once additional visas become available, those petitioners on the waiting list will receive their visa in the order in which their petition was received. Petitioners on the waiting list do not have to take any additional steps to request the U visa. USCIS will notify the petitioner of the approval and the accompanying U visa.
Can I apply for a United States 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 nonimmigrant status, and
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.
- Any qualifying family member who does not have a derivative U visa when the principal U nonimmigrant receives a Green Card is no longer eligible for a derivative U visa, but may still be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence.
Contact us for more information about your visa application. Our experienced Los Angeles immigration and visa attorneys offer a free consultation!
Can my family members derive status from my U visa application with USCIS?
If the family member deriving status based on your status has met the eligibility requirements for a Green Card, they may apply for lawful permanent residence by filing their own application to register permanent residence or adjust status as well as supplement E. Even if your family members never had U nonimmigrant status or a U visa, they may still be eligible for a Green Card.
- First, you must file a petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient for each eligible family member.
- You may file the petition for qualifying family member sat the same time or after you apply for a Green Card.
What happens after a petition for my qualifying family member(s) is approved?
The petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient is the form that is used to establish whether your family member is eligible to apply for a Green Card based on your U visa based lawful permanent resident status. This does not mean that your family member will receive a Green Card. Even if your petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient is approved, your family member is not automatically eligible for work authorization. They are eligible to work once they have received their Green Card.
Family members in the United States may apply for a Green Card. Family members outside the United States must first visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain their immigrant visa. Information for the local U.S. embassy or consulate and the procedures for obtaining a visa to enter the United States may be found at www.usembassy.gov.
Are there fees to file a petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient?
- All petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient applications are sent to the USCIS Vermont Service Center.
- There is a filing fee for the petition for qualifying family member of a U-1 recipient. If you are unable to pay the fee, you may request a fee waiver on the appropriate form, or by submitting a separate written request for a fee waiver.
Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking & Other Crimes
USCIS offers resources for victims of human trafficking and other crimes and the organizations that serve them. This information is designed to help answer any questions you or your family might have about obtaining T or U Nonimmigrant status. Please see Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking & Other Crimes for more information.
Read more about U Visa: Frequently Asked Questions.