A U non-immigrant status (U visa) may be issued by USCIS to a victim of certain crimes who has suffered mental and physical abuse and is helpful with authorities in the investigation of the crime and the prosecution of the offender. The U.S. Congress created the U non-immigrant visa in October 2000 and established a limit of 10,000 U visas per year for principal petitioners. The cap does not apply to family members such as spouses, children, or other eligible family members. If the cap is reached, USCIS will place the applicants on a waiting list and grant deferred action or parole and employment authorization while waiting for the U visa to become available. Once the U visa is approved, certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa based on the relationship to the principal U-visa applicant. If the principal petitioner is 21 years of age or older, the spouse and minor children will be able to derive U status. If the U visa petitioner is under 21 years of age, the spouse, children, parents and non-married citizens under the age of 18 may derive status from the principal U visa applicant.
The qualifying crime in the U visa scenario must have been committed in the United States by a United States citizen, a resident or one without status. The perpetrator of the crime does not have to be arrested, charged or convicted. Also, the victim of a qualifying crime who is currently residing in another country still remains eligible for a U visa on the basis that the crime was committed on U.S. soil.
To be eligible for the U visa you must be a victim of any of the crimes listed below:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Felonious Assault
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Witness Tampering
- Other Related Crimes
- Attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes
A person who:
- has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of “qualifying criminal activity”;
- possesses credible/ reliable information of the details concerning the criminal activity;
- has helped or is likely to be helpful to a certifying agency in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity;
- has been victimized by “qualifying criminal activity” in the United States/ United States territories or possessions.
The following individuals who have been victimized by a qualifying crime can qualify for the U visa:
- If you have overstayed
- If you have never been in lawful status
- If you are in detention
- If you are in removal proceedings
- If you are outside of the U.S.
- If you are in lawful status
In order to apply for the U Visa, the petitioner must file the FORM I-918 with USCIS, which has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate the petition. The applicant must also acquire a law enforcement certification (FORM I-918 Supplement) before filing a petition (FORM I-918) for U Nonimmigrant Status. The law enforcement certification is a form that must be completed and signed by the agency or authority responsible for the investigation or prosecution. In all, the following should be submitted to USCIS at the Vermont Service Center:
- FORM I-918, Petition for U Non-immigrant Status
- FORM I-918, Supplement B, U Non-immigrant Status certification
- Signed statement by the petitioner describing the facts of the victimization
- Evidence of physical and mental abuse
- FORM I-192, application for advanced permission to enter is Non-immigrant, if petitioner is inadmissible
The U-Visa petition must be filed with the USCIS Vermont Service Center. There is no filing fee in the submission of the Form I-918.
The recipient of the U visa will be able to enjoy multiple benefits that can extend to certain relatives as follows:
- You can obtain permission to lawfully be employed in the U.S. at the time that you have a pending bona fide application for the U visa.
- Family members with U-2 to U-5 status can request employment authorization.
- Certain family members (spouse, children, and for those victims under 21, parents and siblings under the age of 18) may also qualify for the U visa.
- U relatives can continue to maintain the U status after the death of the principal U visa holder.
- U children that have derivative status from a U parent will not age out.
- You can live lawfully in the U.S. for a period of 4 years with the possibility to extend in 1 year increments for those cases that require further investigation/prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity.
- You can apply for the resident status after 3 years with the U visa.
- You can apply for certain public benefits in certain states.
- You can travel abroad but in order to return to the U.S. you must request the U visa from the U.S. Consulate.
- An outstanding administrative order of removal is deemed cancelled by operation of law.
- Removal orders issued by an Immigration Judge or BIA may be cancelled after filing a motion to reopen and terminate removal proceedings.
- An approval of the U petition will grant deferred action or parole.
For victims of certain criminal activities, the U-1 is a viable process to ultimately obtain the resident status. Unfortunately, the U-1 is limited to 10,000 visas per year. In 2009, 6,835 petitions were submitted and 5,825 were approved. In 2014, 26,039 petitions were submitted and 10,020 were approved and a total of 45,898 were pending and carried over from prior years.
In 2015, 7,469 were submitted in the first quarter of the fiscal year and a total of 10,008 were approved in that first quarter.
The indication is that the U-1 visa will continue to be oversubscribed in the future but bona fide applicants can receive deferred action and parole, and obtain an employment authorization document through USCIS.