Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status
January 19, 2024

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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 noncitizens 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.

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.
  • 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 Nonimmigrant.

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

How to apply for U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)

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

  • Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status;
  • Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. The Form I-918, Supplement B, must be signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency (PDF, 879.81 KB) 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 a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant, to 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 consular process to enter the United States, which will include an interview with a consular officer at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Who may be included in your application?

  • If you, the principal, are ​Under 21 years of age, you may petition on behalf of your spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18.
  • If you, the principal, are 21 years of age or older, you may petition on behalf of your spouse and children.

Can I extend my U Visa?

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).

How soon can I get my U visa? Can I get a work Permit while I am waiting? ​

  • 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.

  • Work Permit

Note to Petitioners: Principal U nonimmigrant petitioners are employment authorized incident to status, after the underlying petition for U nonimmigrant status is approved and an employment authorization document is automatically issued without filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Derivative family members residing inside the United States are also employment authorized incident to status, however an employment authorization document is not automatically issued. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, may be filed for a derivative to obtain an employment authorization document.

Employment authorization for principals and derivatives can only be issued after the underlying U nonimmigrant status petition is approved, regardless of when the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is filed.

If the statutory cap is reached in a fiscal year and USCIS uses the waiting list process described at 8 CFR 214.14(d)(2), petitioners for U nonimmigrant status and derivatives in the United States can apply for employment authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, based on deferred action.  An application for employment authorization based on deferred action can only be approved after DHS has deferred action in your case, regardless of when the Form I-765 is filed.

  • Pathway to Permanent Residence

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.

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.

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 Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Nonimmigrant, for each eligible family member. You may file the Form I-929 at the same time or after you file your Form I-485. Family members outside the United States must first visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain their immigrant visa.

  • U nonimmigrant status in Removal Proceedings​

Upon grant of relief, including U Nonimmigrant Status or deferred action, your attorney should move to terminate proceedings because the respondent is no longer removable as charged.

​If you have a prior order of removal and is granted U Nonimmigrant Status your attorney can help you file a motion to reopen to terminate and rescind the order of removal. The regulations state that ICE may join such a motion, at its discretion.

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