U-visa for Crime Victims Assisting Law Enforcement
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 authorized
the “U” visa for immigrant victims of serious crimes. These
visas were created due to rising public safety concerns, with the idea
that foreign victims of crimes in the U.S. should be allowed to remain
so as to provide law enforcement officials with information helpful in
apprehending and prosecuting criminal offenders.
If you are approved for a U visa, you will be granted legal status in the
U.S. for up to four years. Once you have held your U visa for three years,
you may be eligible to apply for legal permanent residence.
U Visa Eligibility Criteria
In order to apply for a U visa using Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant
Status, you must meet the following criteria and provide substantial evidence
to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- You must have been a victim of a “qualifying criminal activity,”
and this crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S.
law. Indirect and bystander victims are also eligible to apply in certain
- In the course of this criminal activity, you must have suffered substantial
physical or mental abuse.
- You have useful information about this criminal activity
- You have been or will be “helpful” to law enforcement in order
to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.
- You are admissible to the United States or you are applying for a waiver
using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
What Crimes Qualify Its Victims for a U Visa
Violent crimes: murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, robbery, felonious assault and
domestic violence. Stalking was also added to the list of crimes for petitions
filed after March 7, 2013.
Enslavement crimes: criminal restraint, kidnapping, abduction, being held hostage, forced
labor, slavery, human trafficking, indentured or debt servitude, and false
Sexual crimes: rape, incest, sexual trafficking, sexual assault and abusive sexual contact,
prostitution, sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation.
Obstruction of justice crimes: perjury, witness tampering, withholding evidence.
Fraud in foreign labor contracting: a later addition to the statute, made in 2014.
You Must Prove Substantial Physical or Mental Abuse
It is not enough to merely be victim of a qualifying crime. You must have
suffered “substantial” physical injury or mental anguish as
a result of this criminal activity and you must provide USCIS with medical
records and affidavits to support your claim
You Must Have Helpful Information to Provide to Law Enforcement
One of the reasons for the authorization of U visas is that many U.S. immigrants
do not provide information to law enforcement due to cultural differences,
language barriers, and fear of deportation. Due to this reluctance to
report, many perpetrators of serious crime have viewed immigrants as an
In order to further the public safety objectives of these visas, your petition
must be certified by a police officer (or other law enforcement official)
who will attest that you were a victim of a qualifying crime and you are
likely to be helpful to an investigation or prosecution of the crime.
Your Qualifying Family Members May Receive Derivative U Visas
Certain family members may be eligible to become derivative U visa recipients
if the principal petitioner’s application is approved. These include your:
- unmarried children under age 21
- parents (if principal petitioner is under age 21), and
- unmarried siblings under 18 years old (if principal petitioner is under age 21).
You can submit Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family
Member of U Visa Recipient along with your own petition or after your
U visa is approved.