The U Visa (U nonimmigrant visa) is accessible by victims of various crimes. The victims must have suffered physical and mental abuse, and they assist the government or law enforcement officials in investigating the crime. Congress created the U visa in October 2000 after the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. This law sought to facilitate the law enforcement agencies' ability to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking of foreigners, and other crimes. The law also sought to protect victims of various crimes who suffer physical and mental abuse and are willing to testify. The California Immigration Attorney can help you apply for the U victim of Criminal Activity Visa.

Eligibility for U Non-Immigrant Visa

You have to meet several conditions to be eligible for the U nonimmigrant visa:

  • You must be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity
  • You should have suffered significant mental or physical abuse after being a victim of crime
  • You should have substantial information about the criminal activity to which you were a victim. A parent, next friend, or guardian may possess information regarding your behalf' criminal activity if you are below 16 years. They may also provide information on your behalf if you have a disability that prevents you from giving the information.
  • You will help or are likely to help the law enforcement officers investigate and prosecute the crime in question. A parent, next friend, or guardian may assist the law enforcement officers on your behalf if you are disabled or below 16 years.
  • The crime should have taken place in the United States or should have violated the United States' laws and regulations.
  • For you to qualify for the U visa, you must be admissible into the United States. However, you should not give up if you are not admissible into the United States. You can seek a waiver by filing form I-192. This is the form for Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

Criminal Activities that Qualify for U Visa

Some of the criminal activities that qualify for the U visa are:

  • Abduction
  • Blackmail
  • Abusive sexual contact
  • Domestic violence
  • False imprisonment
  • Extortion
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Fraud in foreign labor contracting
  • Felonious assault

Additional crimes that qualify for the U visa are:

  • Involuntary servitude
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Peonage
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Perjury
  • Rape
  • Prostitution
  • Stalking
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Sexual assault

You may also qualify for a U visa if you are a victim of unlawful criminal restraint, trafficking, witness tampering, torture, and the slave trade. Any other crime that has crime elements similar to elements of the crimes outlined above may qualify for a U visa award. You will also be eligible even if the actual crimes did not happen as long as there was a conspiracy, an attempt, or a solicitation to commit the crimes outlined above or other related crimes.

How to Apply for U Non-Immigrant Visa

When you are applying for the U nonimmigrant visa, you have to:

  • Fill and submit form I-918, which is a petition for U nonimmigrant visa status
  • You also have to file form I-198, supplement B, for a U nonimmigrant visa certification. The form I-198 has to be signed by the authorized person from the law enforcement agency. The official must confirm that you are helpful, or you were helpful, or you will be useful in the future investigation and prosecution of the crime.
  • If you are inadmissible into the United States, you will have to file Form I-192. This form helps you seek advance permission to enter as a nonimmigrant. With this form, you can request a waiver of your inadmissibility into the United States.
  • While applying for the U visa, you must submit your statement outlining the criminal activity you were a victim of.
  • You must provide the relevant evidence to support each of the eligibility conditions. This information is sought for in the Humanitarian Benefits Based Forms.

Applying for U Non-Immigrant Visa while you are Outside the United States

You may also apply for the U nonimmigrant visa even while you are outside the United States. However, you will have to:

  • Complete and submit all the necessary forms for the U nonimmigrant visa application. You have to submit the forms to the Vermont Service Center.
  • You have to abide by all the instructions that are issued by the Vermont Service Center. The instructions may include visiting the nearest U.S embassy or consulate and having your fingerprints taken. You can only get information regarding your nearest embassy or consulate online.

U Non-Immigrant Visa and your Family Members

Some of your qualifying family members are eligible for the derivative U visa based on the relationship they share with you. You must have your petition or application for all visa approved before your family members are eligible to get the derivative visas. If the principal applicant is below 21 years, they may petition their spouse, parents, children, or siblings below 18 years. If the principal applicant is above 21 years, they may apply on behalf of their children and spouse. While petitioning for a qualifying family member, you have to complete form I-918. This is a petition for a qualifying family member of a U-I recipient. You may submit the petition for your qualifying relative together with your petition or at a later date.

U Visa Fees and Costs

You have to submit all the U visa application form and all the other documents related to your petition to the USCIS Vermont Service Center. All the applications and the petitions for U visas are free. You may also seek a waiver for any other form that might be needed for your application for a U visa. To seek a waiver, you have to fill and submit form I-912, requesting a fee waiver. You could also include a written request seeking a fee waiver alongside your application documents.

The Extension of U-Visas

After you are granted the U-visa, the visa will be valid for four years. However, under certain conditions and circumstances, you may request an extension of the visa period. You may request an extension of your stay based on:

  • A request from the law enforcement service
  • Exceptional circumstances
  • Delays in consular processing

Your stay in the U.S may also be extended after you fill and submit an application for adjustment. You may also apply for a Green card to remain in the U.S.

The Cap on U Non-Immigrant Visas

Every year, only a maximum of 10,000 U visas are granted to the principal petitioner. However, no cap exists on the qualifying family members who can apply for the visa alongside the principal applicant. The qualifying family members include the petitioner's spouse, children, and other qualifying family members like parents and siblings of petitioners below 21 years.

What happens when the maximum limit or cap is reached before all the interest petitioners submit their applications? The Uscis creates a waiting list for all the principal qualifying petitioners and qualifying family members. The applicants on the waiting list are granted parole or deferred action and may apply for the work authorization permits as they wait for additional U visas availability.

When the visas finally become available, the applicants on the waiting list will receive the visas based on the visa application's order or the submission of the petition. If you are on the waiting list, you do not have to take their steps to apply for the U visa. The Uscis will inform you regarding your petition approval and the accompanying U visa. It is important to note that principal U visa holders are employed authorized when your petition for the U visa is approved. The work permit is issued automatically, and you don't have to fill the form I-765. Form I-765 is the application for employment authorization

Your derivative family members residing within the United States are also authorized to work in the United States. However, for derivatives, the employment authorization document is not issued automatically. The derivative may have to file form I-765, application for employment authorization to get a job permit in the U.S. The employment authorization for principal petitioners and their derivative family members will only be available after the U visa petition's approval. This is irrespective of whether the petitioner and the family members have filled the form I-765 for employment authorization.

When the Uscis reaches the cap for the U visa issuance, the petitioners and qualifying family members on the waiting list can seek employment authorization using Form I-765 based on deferred action. Your employment authorization application based on deferred action will only be approved after the DHS has deferred action in your matter. This is irrespective of whether form I-765 is filled or not.

U-Visa and Green Card

After coming into the United States on a U visa, you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card. Applying for a Green Card will help you adjust your status and seek permanent residence in the U.S. However, you have to meet specific regulations to be eligible for a Green Card application:

  • You should have been physically present in the U.S for a continuous minimum duration of three years while on the U nonimmigrant visa
  • You should not have refused to offer assistance to law enforcement officers in investigating and prosecuting a crime. It should be evident that you have complied and assisted the law enforcement officials since you received your visa.
  • While applying for your Green Card or the Green Cards for your qualifying family members, you should visit the page for Green Card for victims of crimes. If a family member does not have a derivative U visa when you receive your Green Card, they may not be eligible for a derivative U visa. However, they are still eligible to apply for permanent residence in the U.S.

Your Family Members and Green Card

If your family member who is in the United States on a derivative visa has met all the eligibility criteria, they may apply for a Green Card on their own. They may fill and submit their form I-485. This is the application to register permanent residence in the U.S or to adjust their immigration status. Your relatives may still be eligible for a Green Card application even if they never had a U visa. For them to be eligible, you to file form I-929, which is the petition for the qualifying relative of a U-immigrant. You must file a form for every qualifying family member. Therefore, if you have three qualifying family members, you have to fill out three forms I-929. You may file the form I-929 alongside form I-485. After the approval of form I-929 for your family members, your family members in the U.S can proceed and file form I-485 to apply for a Green Card. If your family members are outside the U.S, they have to first visit their consulate or the U.S embassy to obtain their immigrant visa. They can obtain information regarding the process of getting a visa at the U.S embassy website.

The role of form I-929 is to establish whether your family member qualifies to apply for a Green Card based on your U nonimmigrant visa. Filing this form does not mean that your family member qualifies or will receive a Green Card. Even after the approval of Form I-929, your family member is not automatically eligible for work authorization. It is only after receiving their Green Card that your family members will be eligible to work in the U.S. All complete form I-929 are forwarded to the USCIS Vermont Service Center. Unlike while applying for a U visa, there is a fee for filing form I-929. However, if you are unable to pay the application fee, you may seek a waiver.

Difference Between U Nonimmigrant Status and U Non-Immigrant Visa

You must qualify, and you have to abide by all the requirements of USCIS for you to receive the U-I nonimmigrant status. The USCIS is responsible for approving U visa petitions for individuals in the U.S. and those outside the U.S. If you are already in the U.S and you have qualified and approved a U-visa petition; the USCIS will immediately grant you a nonimmigrant status.

If you are abroad and have a qualifying U visa petition, you have to file an application for a U visa at the consulate or the U.S. Embassy before re-entering the U.S. The same case applies if you have a U nonimmigrant status, but you have traveled abroad. When the U.S embassy or the consulate issues you with a U visa, you will assume the U nonimmigrant status when you re-enter the U.S.

If you are abroad and seeking a U-I nonimmigrant status, you have to file a petition to the Vermont Service Center in the United States. Consulates and embassies abroad can't receive applications for U nonimmigrant status. Once the USCIS approves your petition, you can then proceed and apply for a U visa.

What happens if you have a U-I nonimmigrant status, but you have traveled abroad? If you traveled out of the U.S., you would have to apply and be issued with a U-visa at the U.S embassy or consulate for your re-entry into the United States.

The Process of Applying for a U Non-Immigrant Visa

You have to follow several steps while applying for the U nonimmigrant visa. The order of actions or steps during the application process may vary from on U.S consulate to the other. The typical steps that you have to follow when applying for a U-visa are:

  • File a petition to the Vermont Service Center
  • After the approval of the petition, fill the visa application form.

U Status Application

The processing times for a U visa vary a lot. Typically it takes six months to one year before you finally receive the USCIS's decision. If you intend to apply for a U status, it is crucial to start working on your U-status application early enough. It is often time-consuming to get all the needed documents ready. The application process entails:

  • Obtaining certification from law enforcement or any other qualifying government official - The certification will confirm that you are helpful during the investigation and the prosecution of a crime. This is known as the I-918 supplement B form.
  • You also have to gather all the necessary documents that include a cover letter, I-918 application form, identity documents, and personal statements.
  • You should gather all the necessary supporting documents that will help to strengthen your application.
  • You should fill out the waiver form and get all the necessary supporting documents
  • Consolidate and mail all of the outlined documents to the USCIS Vermont Service Center

Waiver of Inadmissibility into the United States

If you are inadmissible into the United States, you may file form I-192 and apply for a fee waiver. What factors may render you inadmissible into the United States? Certain aspects may render you inadmissible; they include:

  • Prior immigration violations
  • Diseases and mental health issues
  • Criminal Conduct

If you have these inadmissibility issues, you may have to submit an extra form alongside your U status application to request a waiver of the issues. You have to submit Form I-192 to request a waiver. While considering whether to waive the inadmissibility issues, the USCIS will look at the good and the bad things in your life and decide if you need a chance. If you suspect that you have inadmissibility issues and you will probably need a waiver, you should file the form I-192 alongside your U status application. If the government feels that you are trying to hide your history, your visa U status application may not prevail.

Beginning from 2014, Form I -192 costs $585. However, if you fill and submit the Form I-192 waiver request, the USCIS may waive the fees. The USCIS will only waive the fees if you submit further evidence indicating that you do not have the financial capability to pay this huge sum of money.  Some of the documents that you should attach to prove your financial status are:

  • Tax statements
  • Bank statements
  • Social security records
  • Public assistance records
  • A proof that you are in criminal custody or immigration detention

Your Personal Statement

While applying for a U Immigration status, you also have to submit a personal statement. The statement should be in English or translated with a pen. Since the U status application does not include an interview, the personal statement is the only chance you have to prove why you deserve the status.  You should confirm that you meet all the U status requirements through this statement, and the government should grant your request.  In this report, you should explain anything that you feel that the USCIS may require to know. In the personal statement, you should include:

  • Biographical information – This information includes your full name and your date and place of birth. You also have to outline the date when you came into the U.S. and how you came
  • The Crime – You have to explain the type of crime you were victims of, when the crime happened, its location, and the person who committed the crime. You should also explain how many times the crime occurred, whether there were witnesses, and the extent of your injuries
  • Helping the Authorities – You should outline how you helped the authorities in gathering information regarding the crime. You should also outline whether the person who committed the crime was arrested, charged, and taken to trial
  • The Harm Suffered – In your statement, ensure that you explain how the crime affected your life.

Other supporting documents that you may have to provide are:

  • Police reports
  • Court records
  • Family letters
  • Medical records
  • Restraining orders
  • Pictures of injuries

Find a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney Near Me

Are you a victim of a qualifying criminal activity, and you are willing to assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting the crime? You can apply for a U Victim of Criminal Activity visa. Eventually, you can apply for the U immigration status to remain in the U.S. The California Immigration Attorney will guide you through the application process. Contact us at 424-789-8809 and speak to one of our attorneys.