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Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status

Scared battered women looking around a corner

Background

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.

The following U Nonimmigrant information is explained in this area of the website.

U Nonimmigrant Eligibility

You may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if:

  • You are the victim of 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 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 (see glossary for definition of ‘next friend’).
  • 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 on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape

 

 

  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes*

*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.

†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.

Applying for U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)

To apply (petition) for a U nonimmigrant status, submit:

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 consular process 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.

Filing for 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 ageYou may petition on behalf of your spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18
21 years of age or olderYou may petition on behalf of your spouse and children.

To petition for a qualified family member, you must file a Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient, at the same time as your application or at a later time.

Fees to File U Nonimmigrant Status Applications U Visa Extensions

  • All U nonimmigrant status applications (petitions) and other forms related to the U petition are filed with the USCIS Vermont Service Center.
  • 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 Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by including your own written request for a fee waiver with your application or petition.

U Visa Extensions

When U nonimmigrant status is granted, it is valid for four years. However, extensions are available in certain, limited circumstances if the extension is:

  • 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).

U Visa Cap

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 nonimmigrant status, and
  • You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.
  • To apply for permanent residence (a Green Card) for yourself or a qualifying family member, visit our Green Card for a U Nonimmigrant page.
  • PLEASE NOTE: 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. 
  • For information on extending your principal U visa to ensure your family member remains eligible for a U visa, please visit the T and U visa extension memorandum.

Family Members Deriving Status

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 Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and following the instructions on the Form I-485, 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.

If the Form I-929 for your family member(s) is approved:

  • Family members in the United States may file the Form I-485 to 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.
  • NOTE: The Form I-929 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 the Form I-929 is approved, your family member is not automatically eligible for work authorization. They are eligible to work once they have received their Green Card.

Fees to File Form I-929

  • All Form I-929 applications are sent to the USCIS Vermont Service Center.
  • There is a filing fee for the Form I-929. If you are unable to pay the fee, you may request a fee waiver by also filing a Form I-912, or by submitting a separate written request for a fee waiver.

Please visit our Green Card for a Victim of a Crime (U Nonimmigrant) Web page for more information.

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.

 

 

Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/09/2014