to Legally Stay and Obtain a Green Card in the US
When you Have Been a Victim of a Crime
What is a U-visa?
of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000
created two new nonimmigrant visas for noncitizen
victims of crimes, the T-visa and the U-visa. Both
visas are designed to provide immigration status to
noncitizens that are assisting or are willing to assist
authorities investigating crimes.
The U visa
is designed for noncitizen crime victims who have
suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from
criminal activity and who agree to cooperate with
government officials investigating or prosecuting
this criminal activity.
does not need to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent
resident, and you do not have to have been married
to the abuser to be eligible for a U visa.
As of December
2004, CIS had not yet issued regulations on U visas.
However, CIS has issued guidance on providing interim
relief for you if you are eligible for a U visa. This
means that you cannot apply for a U-visa at this time,
but you may be able to apply for temporary status
until those regulations are issued.
years, U visa holders may apply for lawful permanent
What is U-visa
CIS has not yet published regulations governing these
visas, it is not yet possible to obtain a U-visa.
CIS may grant temporary legal status, called U-visa
interim relief, to those who are eligible until there
is a process for applying. This temporary status is
offered to victims until the U-visa regulations are
published to ensure that they have a chance to apply
for a U-visa.
for U-visas and U-visa interim relief are the same.
interim relief and employment authorizations are valid
for one year. You must apply for an extension every
year before the expiration of the current period.
If a U-visa isn't
available now, is there anything I should do?
If you qualify
for the U-visa, you may apply for U-visa interim relief.
You should start gathering documentation to establish
eligibility for U-visa status. These documents are
You should get a certification
from a law enforcement official who is working with
you in the investigation or prosecution of the crime
that the conditions listed above are met. It is very
important to obtain this certification from law enforcement
officials as soon as possible, while you are involved
in providing information and assistance. In this way,
you will have the documents you need when the application
procedure is in place.
- proof of being victim of a
- proof of suffering substantial
physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime;
- proof of being helpful to
law enforcement officials in the investigation
and/or prosecution of the crime.
What are the
benefits of a U visa?
U visa petitioners will be granted temporary legal
status (US Green Card) and work authorization. After
three years, you will be eligible to apply for lawful
permanent resident status.
Up to 10,000
U visas will be available each year for eligible applicants.
Can I become
a lawful permanent resident if I hold a U-visa?
the U-visa regulations have been published and actual
U-visas are issued. U-visas will allow you to apply
to become a lawful permanent resident if:
- you have been physically present
in the United States for 3 years since you were
issued the U-visa (or since you were given U-visa
interim relief); or
- you can show that your continued
presence in the United States is supported by
humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity,
or is otherwise in the public interest; or
- CIS can decide, in its discretion,
to reduce the three year wait to become a lawful
permanent resident if it receives certification
from law enforcement officials saying that they
do not object.
the U-visa interim relief is not an actual visa,
and it does not make you eligible for lawful permanent
residence until the actual U-visas are available.
I eligible to apply for a U Visa?
a broad range of criminal activity listed in the legislation
may qualify for U visas. Many of these victims will
be women and children and include victims of domestic
violence, nannies subjected to abuse from their employers,
trafficking victims, and victims of rape in the workplace.
are already participating in removal (deportation)
proceedings, you can still apply for a U visa.
for a U visa, you must show:
Judges are well qualified
to provide the certification that you will need to
obtain this protection. Certifications also may provide
information on the mental or physical abuse you have
suffered. They may also state that you possess information
concerning the criminal activity.
- that you have suffered "substantial
physical or mental abuse" as the result of one
of the following forms of criminal activity (or
"similar" activity) conducted in the US:
- rape; torture; trafficking;
incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive
sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation;
female genital mutilation; being held hostage;
peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping;
abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false
imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter;
murder; felonious assault; witness tampering;
obstruction of justice; perjury; or attempt, conspiracy,
or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned
- that you possess information
concerning the criminal activity;
- that you can provide a certification
that states that you are being, have been, or
are likely to be helpful to the investigation
or prosecution of the criminal activity. (This
certification must come from a federal, state,
or local law enforcement official, prosecutor,
judge, or authority that is investigating the
criminal activity.); and
- that you are otherwise admissible
to the US (that you are not barred from the US
for any reason).
Can family members
benefit from the U-visa?
members of persons granted U visa status can also
qualify for a U- visa. These include the spouse and
children of the principal applicant granted U status
(as long as the spouse was not the person who committed
the crime against you). Where the applicant is a child
crime victim, the parent may qualify as well.
as a family member, a designated government official
must certify that an investigation or prosecution
would be harmed without the assistance of the qualifying
relative. The USCIS must usually determine that the
qualifying relative would suffer extreme hardship
if a U visa is not granted, however in some cases
you do not have to prove this "extreme hardship" requirement.
For more information
on special sorts of visas for victims, read our webpages
T Visa (Visa for Victims of Human Trafficking),
S Visa (Visa for Informants of crimes), and
VAWA protection for battered spouses (Self-Petition
process to obtain Green Card without spouse).