Victims of Crimes (U Visa)

Humanitarian Visas


Foreign citizens who are victims of crimes such as trafficking and forced labor can apply for a U visa (Form I-918). It serves as a protection to the victims and a way for them to assist during the police investigation. It serves as a permit that can even lead to a permanent residency, otherwise known as a green card.

Foreign citizens who are victims of crimes such as trafficking and forced labor can apply for a U visa (Form I-918). It serves as a protection to the victims and a way for them to assist during the police investigation. It serves as a permit that can even lead to a permanent residency, otherwise known as a green card.

Victims must be willing to help the authorities as a condition of eligibility for a U visa. These are usually victims of enslavement, abuse, trafficking, sexual assault, and the like. Family members of victims may be eligible to apply for a U visa as well.

Should I File for a U Visa as Soon as Possible?

Yes, filing for a U Visa as soon as possible will give a better chance for approval. You must show that you have information that can help authorities with the crime you were a victim of. If you take too long, your testimony may become irrelevant or outdated.

What Crimes Qualify Fall Under the U Visa?

There are several requirements for U visa eligibility. First, you must be a victim of a qualifying crime. Many crimes can fall under the “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.” Here are some of the most common:

  • Obstruction of Justice (Perjury, withholding evidence, witness tampering)
  • Foreign labor fraud
  • Violent crimes (murder, stalking, rape, robbery, manslaughter)
  • Sexual crimes (assault, trafficking, abuse, prostitution, exploitation)
  • Enslavement crimes (kidnapping, human trafficking, false imprisonment, abduction, hostage, debt servitude)

What Are the Requirements for Getting a U Visa?

Aside from being a victim of a qualifying crime, there are several other requirements. They are:

  • You must be a victim of a crime that occurred in the US or one that violated US laws.
  • You must have information about the crime that can help law enforcement.
  • You must be willing to help during an investigation (Certificate of Helpfulness).
  • You must prove you have suffered abuse because of the crime.

How Do I Prove That I Suffered Substantial Abuse?

You’ll need to provide proper documentation detailing the abuse you experienced from a qualified professional. Here are some documents you can use:

  • Photographic proof
  • Personal statement
  • Witness statements
  • Medical records
  • Social worker affidavits
  • Mental health records or statements

You will submit these documents to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. USCIS staff will then examine these documents to determine the severity of what you endured.

What Is a Certificate of Helpfulness?

When you are applying for a U Visa, you also need a Certificate of Helpfulness. To obtain one, you must collaborate with a law enforcement official who will sign your petition proving your statement. They will attest that you will be helpful to the investigation or during the prosecution of the crime.

Many immigrants are afraid to approach law enforcement because they fear it may lead to deportation or make them a target for criminals. Criminals know this, which is why they target immigrants for their crimes, as only a few fights back.

However, even if an immigrant is living in the US unlawfully, the U visa bridges the gap by allowing them to work with law enforcement while giving them a chance to get a green card. While cooperating with law enforcement, their family will be protected and won’t face deportation, making it a safe route to take.

What if I am Unable to Assist Law Enforcement Because I Am Underage?

If you are under 16, you are not able to effectively assist law enforcement. However, you can still get a certificate of helpfulness. In these cases, it will be a parent or guardian who will help on your behalf. A friend can also become the assistant if they show that they can provide everything needed.

The same is true for people with certain disabilities. They cannot fully assist law enforcement and need a representative.

What If I Have any Past Immigration Violations?

If you have any past immigration violations, it may mean that you are inadmissible. You can still apply for a U Visa, along with a waiver (Form I-192). It will help nullify the grounds of inadmissibility so that you can qualify.

Form I-192 does not require you to prove extreme hardship. The applications undergo a review, but you must disclose any violation information on your petition. If you do not state it, you could risk a rejection.

What Happens To My Family Members?

Once you get the approval for a U visa, it can extend to certain family members. These family members must be of good moral character and admissible in the US. They must also file for a waiver if they have any prior violations. They must be any of the following to be eligible:

  • Unmarried children under 21 years old
  • Spouse
  • Parents if you are under 21 years old
  • Unmarried siblings if they are under 18, and you are under 21 years old

What Are the Types of U Visas?

U visas have a number that designates what category you fall into. These designations are:

  • U1: Those who are crime victims and fit the main criteria
  • U2: Spouses of U1
  • U3: Children of U1
  • U4: Parents of U1 (If U1 is under 21 and unmarried)
  • U5: Siblings of U1 (if they are not married and under 21)

Why Is There a Waiting List?

U visas have a cap of 10,000 per year. This cap does not apply to family members who become a derivative/extension of your status. If it reaches the maximum cap, you will be on a waiting list. While you are on their waiting list, you are still eligible to get work authorization in the US. Eligible family members can also apply.

How Long Does the U Visa Last?

You can live and work in the US for up to four years with a U visa. You will be eligible to begin the process of applying for a green card after three years of US residence. One year is enough to ensure you complete your application and receive a green card before the U visa expires.

Can I Extend My U Visa?

Most U Visa holders pursue a green card after three years. However, there are cases where you have to apply for an extension. Extensions are only valid if they meet any of these requirements:

  • Your green card status is pending
  • Consular processing delays
  • Law enforcement request
  • Other exceptional circumstances

Next Steps

Applying for a U Visa can be an overwhelming process if you don’t know what to do. It can be hard to deal with law enforcement and the USCIS. Do not hesitate to contact us for assistance with your application. Having a firm at your side can help you gather substantial evidence to improve your chances of a U visa approval. We’ve helped many immigrants get a U visa in the last 40 years. We can help you too.


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