Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status
If you are the victim of a crime that caused you to experience mental or physical abuse, the U Visa exists to help you find refuge while seeking to persecute the criminals involved.
What is the U Visa?
The U nonimmigrant status 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.
What Crimes Qualify You for U Nonimmigrant Status?
The qualifying criminal activities for U Nonimmigrant Status include abduction, sexual abuse, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraid in foreign labour contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, and kidnapping.
Additionally, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, or unlawful criminal restraint qualify as crimes in this category.
U Nonimmigrant Eligibility
You are eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if you are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity, 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 unable to provide information due to being under 16 or disabled, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf), you were/are helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, the crime occurred in the United States or violated US laws, and you are admissible to the United States (if you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192).
There is not a “confidentiality” agreement within immigration offices in the U visa filing process. This means that immigration could decide to forward your information to another branch of the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE (deportation) if they decide to do so. However, this is true with most applications that are filed with immigration.
Types of U-Visas
The U visa for victims of crimes has several types of statuses granted to the principal victim and the derivative family members. These are the types of visas for dependents of U visa holders:
- U-2 visa is a derived U visa for the spouse of the U-1 visa holder. The US only accepts legal marriage which can be proven through certificates and ceremonies and does not accept multiple spouses.
- U-3 visa is for the children of the U-1 visa holder who have valid birth certificates.
- U-4 visa is for the parents of the U-1 visa holders. The U-1 visa holder must be under 21 years old for the parents to qualify for a U-4 visa.
- U-5 visa is for unmarried siblings under 18 years old of the U-1 visa holder. For the siblings to qualify for a U-5 visa, the U-1 visa holder must be under 21 years old.
How to Apply for the U Visa?
When applying for a U Visa, you will need to complete a few main steps, in order to get the visa:
- Cooperate with law enforcement to get the status of a victim.
- Complete the online application form.
- Collect the required documents and submit them at the USCIS or US embassy.
- Wait for visa processing.
Whether you are applying from within or outside the US, you must get your petition approved from USCIS to qualify for the U visa. When USCIS approves your petition, you will get a Form I-797, Notice of Action, which you must attach to your documents.
After U Visa Approval
Once a visa is available, USCIS reviews the file to verify eligibility, once again. If determined that you are eligible, your petition for a U nonimmigrant status will finally be approved.
Filing for Qualifying Family Members
With a U visa, you are allowed to bring your spouse, children, parents, and siblings under some circumstances with you in the US. After you get your own U visa, you can then petition for family members by filing Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient.
Working as a U Visa Holder
As soon as you are issued a U Visa, you are immediately allowed to apply for a work permit that lasts as long as your visa does. You can work in any capacity in a field of your choice.
How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a U Visa?
Since this applies to victims of crimes and violence, the application procedure is free of charge. There are no fees to apply for, but there are fees for filing some of the forms. However, to avoid these fees, you can file for a waiver by sending in a written request or Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.
Number of U Visas Issued by Year
In total, no more than 10,000 U visas may be given in one fiscal year. This includes only the principal applicants, so the victims, and not their family or dependents.
U Visa Extensions
When your status is close to expiring, you can request an extension from USCIS. Extensions are done by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
However, getting this extension is particularly difficult and only depends on the following reasons:
- Your information is needed from law enforcement agencies.
- You are needed on exceptional circumstances.
- There are delays in consular processing.
Is There a Cap for the U Visa?
The U visa based on US government directives has a cap. This means that there is a limited number of these visas issued each year. In total, no more than 10,000 U visas may be given in one fiscal year. This includes only the principal applicants, so the victims, and not their family or dependents.
If there are too many applications in one year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is in charge of these visas is allowed to create a wait list for those who qualify for the U visa. The people on the waitlist are granted employment authorizations, and when more U visas become available, they automatically get them.
Can I Apply for a Green Card With a U visa?
When you have a U visa for 3 years, you are eligible to apply for a Green Card.
To be eligible for US permanent residence, besides having the U visa for 3 years, you must also have complied with US law enforcement requests. So you must have shared all information regarding the crime to the police and not withheld anything.