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 circumstances.
- 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 imprisonment.
- 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 excellent “target.”
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).