WARNING: Be very careful. Get help from an immigration attorney!
What is a U visa?
A U visa or U nonimmigrant status is sometimes given to people who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents and are victims of certain crimes in the U.S.
If you or someone in your family (spouse, child, sibling, or parent) is the victim of a crime, you might be able to change your immigration status. You may be able to apply for a U visa.
A U visa or U nonimmigrant status gives you
four years of lawful status
four years of work permission
the chance to apply for permanent resident status
a chance of relief in some immigration court cases from deportation or removal
Can I apply for a U visa?
If you, your spouse, your child, your sibling, or your parent were the victim of a crime, you might be able to apply for U status. Even if the family member who is the crime victim is a U.S. citizen, you may still be eligible for U status.
If you apply for U status, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for U status with you no matter your age. If you are under 21 when you apply for U status, your parents and your unmarried siblings under the age of 18 can apply for U status with you.
If you were the victim of a qualifying crime anywhere under U.S. jurisdiction, you might be able to apply for U status. You also might be able to apply if the crime happened outside the U.S. but the crime violated U.S. law. You can apply for a U visa even if you are not in the U.S. right now.
Can all crime victims get a U visa?
No. It depends on the crime, how the crime has affected you, and more. See sections below about eligibility.
*If you think you or someone in your family might be eligible, call an immigration lawyer for help.
What crimes qualify?
Victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes can apply for a U visa. Here is a list of all qualifying crimes. You can use crimes similar to these, or an attempt to commit any of these, to apply for U nonimmigrant status.
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Abusive sexual contact
- Sexual exploitation
- Female genital mutilation
- Being held hostage
- False imprisonment
- Involuntary servitude
- Slave trade
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Felonious assault
- Witness tampering
- Obstruction of justice
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting (knowingly recruiting, soliciting, hiring someone outside the US with the intent to bring them into the US under false terms)
What makes me eligible?
You must prove these:
You (or your family member) are a victim of a crime. You (or your family member) must report the crime to the police if you want to apply for a U visa. You need to get police reports to prove you are a crime victim. Other proof helps, like medical records, letters from people who helped you after the crime, or letters from witnesses to the crime. You must also write a sworn statement explaining the facts of the crime and its effects on your life. You must include your printed name, signature, and date. You do not have to sign in front of a notary, but you can.
You or your family member had or have serious physical or emotional problems because of the crime. Examples: you have health issues because of the crime. Ask your doctor to write a letter about the medical problems. You are having emotional problems. Ask your therapist or counselor to write a letter about these problems. Anyone who knows about how you have suffered can write a letter. If you did not go to the doctor or therapist but you suffered abuse, describe the abuse in a written statement.
You helped, are helping, or will help officials investigate or prosecute the crime. You must get an official certificate (Form I-918 Supplement B) stating this. Before asking law enforcement for the certificate, talk to a lawyer about getting the certificate.
An official who knows how you helped or are helping the investigation of the crime can give you a signed certificate. The official could be:
a police official
a child protection officer
an immigration official
a judge−other state or federal authorities
Most people who apply for a U visa also must apply for a waiver. If you are not admissible, ask immigration for a waiver. The waiver application is Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant. There is a fee to file the waiver application.
Talk to a lawyer about your history. A lawyer can help you decide if you should file the waiver application and what proof you should send with it. You must write a statement explaining why you should be able to stay and why you do not want to go back to your home country.
What are the benefits of U Nonimmigrant Status?
If you get U status:
you get permission to live in the U.S. for four years
you get permission to work in the U.S. for four years
after three years of living in the U.S. with your U status, you might be able to apply for permanent residence(a green card)
you might be able include your spouse, minor children, parents and unmarried minor siblings, depending on your age or their age
even if you do not include your relatives now, you might be able to help them later
How long does it take to find out if I will get a U visa?
As of October 2019, it takes over four years to find out if immigration has approved a U visa. Immigration works on applications in the order they are filed. Try to file yours as soon as possible to hold your place in line. Check how long it is taking immigration to decide U visa applications at www.uscis.gov:
Click on Tools
Under Online Resources, click on Case Processing Times
Scroll down to the Form drop-down menu. Choose I-918 Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
Scroll down to the Field Office or Service Center drop-down menu. Choose the office that has your case. For most people this is the Vermont Service Center. (If you got a notice from immigration that they transferred your case, choose Nebraska Service Center)
Scroll down. Look at the date in the column to the farthest right. Immigration is currently reviewing applications sent in on that date
*Immigration can approve a limit of 10,000 U visas every year. There is a list of people waiting. If immigration reviews your case and thinks you qualify for a U visa, but one is not available now, they cannot approve it. Instead, they say you have deferred action status. They let you apply for a work card while you wait for the U visa. Work cards are good for two years. You must renew your work card until you get a final decision on your U visa. Getting deferred action status does not guarantee you will get a U visa.
* COVID-19 update: It will take longer for you to get a work permit. It could take months for you to get one.
How can I learn more?
Go to www.uscis.gov
Scroll to the bottom. Click on Humanitarian under Topics
Click on Victims of Human Trafficking & Other Crimes
Click on U Nonimmigrant Status
Be very careful before sending an application to immigration. If they deny your application, you might be put in deportation proceedings. This risk is greater now than it used to be.
If you committed certain crimes, even if you never went to court or jail, or you only paid a fine, or lied to the government, or other things, you could also be put in deportation proceedings.
Immigration can look at all your records, even records you had expunged! Get help from an immigration lawyer. They help make sure everything is ok!
Get Legal Help
Visit the Northwest Justice Project website to find out how to get legal help.
Northwest Justice Project adapted this fact sheet from the original by the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition. We appreciate their generosity in allowing us to share this information.