U Visas

The U visa is a non-immigrant visa that is reserved for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials with regards to investigating and prosecuting criminal activity.  The U visa offers individuals a road to temporary, and in some cases, permanent U.S. residence.

The U non-immigrant visa category was created by Congress in 2000 with the intent to strengthen the ability of law enforcement and government officials to investigate and prosecute criminal activity, such as trafficking, fraud, domestic violence, witness tampering, false imprisonment, blackmail, involuntary servitude, and more. The idea was to help law enforcement agencies and offer protection to victims of such crimes at the same time.

An individual is eligible for a U non-immigrant visa if he or she can demonstrate that:

  • The individual is the victim of criminal activity that qualifies for purposes of the U visa;
  • The individual has suffered significant physical or mental abuse as a consequence of the criminal activity;
  • The individual has information about the criminal activity;
  • The individual was helpful, is currently helpful, or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement officials with the investigation and prosecution of the crime;
  • The crime in question has taken place in the U.S. or in contravention of U.S. laws; and
  • The individual is otherwise admissible to the United States.

Simply filling out the appropriate forms is not enough when an individual is applying for a U visa. Instead, the applicant must gather paperwork and documents that support a claim of injury. This typically includes a personal narrative statement describing the situation and providing context about the crime. The applicant should also provide evidence that he or she is a victim of qualifying criminal activity. In most instances, applicants will gather relevant medical records, affidavits from social workers and medical personnel, police reports, court documents, orders of protection, and affidavits from individuals who have personal knowledge about the crime.

A U visa holder can bring his or her immediate family members to the United States. However, the principal U visa petitioner must have his or her own visa approved before family members can be eligible for their own derivative U visas. If the principal petitioner is under 21 years of age, that person may petition on behalf of his or her spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under the age of 18. If the principal is over 21, that person may petition on behalf of his or her spouse and children. In order to petition for a qualified family member, the petitioner must file Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Receipt.

If an individual is applying for a U visa from within the United States, he or she will most likely not be required to have an interview at a local USCIS office. However, if the person is applying from outside the U.S., he or she will likely have an interview at a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in his or her home country. If the interview with the U.S. official goes well, the applicant’s U visa will be approved.