Everything You Should Know About “U” Visas in the USA

If you are a victim of criminal activity, you may be eligible for a “U” visa to help protect yourself and your immediate family members. In this article, we’ll cover what is a U visa, the process of applying for a U visa and U visa requirements.

What Is A “U” Visa? 

Essentially, a U visa is for victims of criminal activity who may have suffered physical or mental abuse. It is designed to gather information regarding crimes and to protect victims of crimes who are not U.S. citizens. U visas were first created in 2000 when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

You will need to meet several U visa requirements to be eligible for this particular type of visa. The most important thing to note about this type of visa is that the crime you are said to be a victim of must have happened within U.S. territory. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the below are some of the qualifying crimes:

  • Murder
  • Abduction
  • Blackmail
  • Incest
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Being held hostage
  • Prostitution
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Slavery
  • Stalking

While the above is not the complete list, the USCIS website also says that “other related crimes” may be acceptable for a U visa application. Another U visa requirement is that you must have also suffered mental or physical abuse from the crimes and be willing to help law enforcement investigate and, if possible, prosecute the person or people responsible for the crime(s).

If you believe you meet the above requirements, you can then proceed to apply for a U visa whether you are located in or outside of the United States. If you are not currently in the United States, you must file the correct paperwork and have your fingerprints taken at the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. The first form you will need to file is Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. While there is no fee associated with filing Form I-918, you must fill it out in its entirety or risk USCIS denying your application. The second form you will need to fill out and submit is Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. A law enforcement agency must sign this with the appropriate authority. This typically includes local law enforcement agencies, judges, prosecutors, and other legal authorities who are employed to investigate and prosecute alleged criminals. You must also write a personal statement that explains what happened to you as a victim of a qualifying crime and produce evidence to support your statement.

There are multiple benefits to receiving a U visa, including:

  • You will be allowed to work in the U.S. legally
  • You can remain in the U.S. for up to 4 years
  • You can apply for a green card in 3 years
  • Your qualifying family members will also receive derivative benefits
  • You may also qualify for public benefits depending on your income 

“U” Visa Processing Time 

There is a statutory yearly cap on the amount of U visas that can be given out. If you meet all  U visa requirements for eligibility, but that cap has been met (10,000 per year), USCIS will place you on a waiting list. Be aware that there is a backlog in U visa applications, and a person can wait five years or more to receive their visa.

If you think you may qualify for a U visa and are interested in applying, it’s best to speak to an experienced U.S. immigration attorney. At Dominguez Law Firm, PLLC, we work with our clients to get them through the process and work hard to achieve the best result possible. Get in touch today to discuss your specific immigration questions.