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U Visa FAQ
"U" Nonimmigrant Visas - Frequently Asked Questions
How does one become eligible for U nonimmigrant status?

There are four statutory eligibility requirements:

  • The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
  • He/She has information concerning that criminal activity.
  • He/She has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, and
  • The criminal activity must have violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the U.S.
What qualifies as "criminal activity"?

Qualifying criminal activity is defined by statute as that being an activity involving one or more of a long list of activities that violate Federal, State, or local criminal law – from murder, rape, torture, sexual exploitation, and extortion to witness tampering , obstruction of justice, false imprisonment, etc. This is not an exclusive list – in fact, the list of qualifying crimes represents the many types of behavior that can constitute domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, or other crimes which vulnerable immigrants are often targeted.

What are the procedures to request U Nonimmigrants status?

Alien victims of crime must file a Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918) .The form requests information regarding the petitioner's eligibility for such status, as well as admissibility to the United States. Currently, USCIS has designated its Vermont Serivce Center as the centralized location to receive all U Nonimmigrant petitions.

What prevents any alien from claiming this status by saying they were a victim of a crime?

A petition for U nonimmigrant status must also contain a certification of helpfulness from a "certifying agency." That means the victim must provide a U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918, Supplement B) from a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency that demonstrates the petitioner "has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful" in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Further the head of the agency must sign the certification.

What qualifies as a "certifying agency"?

Agencies which must certify that a petitioner for U nonimmigrant status has, is, or will be helpful include federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies, or a prosecutor, judge or other authority that has responsibility for the investigation of the criminal activity.

Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor also qualify as certifying agencies since they have criminal investigative jurisdiction within their respective areas of expertise.

Can an alien petition for U Nonimmigrant status from outside the U.S.?

Yes. USCIS has determined that the stautory framework for U nonimmigrant status permits alien victims of criminal activity to apply for such status either inside or outside the U.S.

Can family members of the petitioner apply for U Nonimmigrant status?

While family members who accompany the petitioner can, under certain circumstances, obtain U nonimmigrant status, they cannot apply on their own behalf. The principal petitioner (alien victim) must petition on behalf of qualifying family members who are admissible to the U.S. Family members who qualify depend on the principal petitioner.

  • If the principal petitioner is under 21 years of age, they may petition on behalf of:
    • spouses
    • children
    • unmarried siblings under age 18
    • parents
  • If the principal petitioner is 21 years of age or older, they may petition on behalf of:
    • spouse
    • children

The principal petitioner would file Form I-918, Supplement A, on behalf of their qualifying family members.

Is there a cap on the number of U Nonimmigrant status grants?

USCIS may grant no more than 10,000 principal aliens U nonimmigrant status in any given fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). This does not apply to spouses, children or other qualifying family members who are accompanying or following to join the principal alien victim.

If the cap is reached in any fiscal year before all petitions are adjudicated, USCIS will create a waiting list that the agency believes will provide a stable mechanism by which victims cooperating with law enforcement agencies can stablize their immigration status. Further, petitioners assigned to the wating list will be given deferred action – that is, they will be eligible to apply for employment authorization or travel – until their petitions can be adjudicated after the start of the following fiscal year.

How long can one maintain the U nonimmigrant classification?

U nonimmigrant status cannot exceed four years; however, extensions are permitted upon certification by a certifying agency that the alien's presence in the U.S. is required to assist in the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying criminal activity.

Can an individual who has held U nonimmigrant status eventually apply for permanent resident status?

Yes. The individual must have been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of admission as a U nonimmigrant, and the agency must determine that he individual's continued presence in the country is justified on humanitarian grounds to ensure continuation of a cohesive family, or is otherwise in the best interest of the public.

Is there a fee for applying for U Nonimmigrant status?

No. The program involves the personal well being of a few applicants and petitioners and USCIS' decision to waive the petition fee reflects the humanitarian purposes of the law. Therefore, no fee will be charged for filing Form I-918 or for qualifying family members.

Petitioners must, however, pay the fee for biometrics services for each person ages 14 - 79 included with the petition. Currently, biometric fees are $80 per person. Petitioners who are financially unable to pay the biometric services fee may submit an application for a fee waiver.

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U Visa Frequently Asked Questions

T and U Interim Final Rule