The U-Visa: Immigration Benefits for Crime Victims

The U-Visa: Immigration Benefits for Crime Victims
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Last updated: January 2010

What Is a U-Visa?

The U-visa is a visa that allows people without status to come forward and report crimes without fear of retaliation, like being deported.

Am I Eligible for a U-Visa?

You may be eligible for a U-Visa if:

1. You were you a victim to one of these crimes:

  • Domestic violence
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Abusive sexual contact;
  • Prostitution or incest
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Peonage or bondage
  • Being held hostage
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Involuntary servitude
  • Kidnapping or abduction
  • False imprisonment
  • Blackmail or extortion
  • Felonious assault
  • Tampering or perjury
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Murder or manslaughter

2. You have you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of one of these crimes.

3. You have information about that crime.

4. You have you been helpful, are you being helpful, or will you likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. For example, have you contacted the police and alerted them to the criminal activity? Or, have you gone to court to testify or proceed with charges?

5. And, the crime happened in the US.

If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for a U-Visa, you should speak with a legal aid organization listed at the bottom of this page.

Note: If you are the surviving immediate family member of a murder victim, you may qualify for the U-visa if all other requirements are met.

What Are the Benefits of the U-Visa?

  • U-Visa recipients are eligible for work authorization;
  • U-Visa recipients become eligible for lawful permanent resident status after 3 years in U non-immigrant Status;
  • For children crime victims under 21 years old, the Spouse, Children, Parents and Unmarried siblings (of the applicant) can apply for a U-Visa;
  • For crime victims over the age of 21, the Spouse and unmarried children under 21 can apply for a U Visa;
  • A U-Visa application can be filed outside of the U.S. for crime victims that assisted in the investigation and prosecution of a crime in the U.S., but have since returned to their country of origin.

What Are Some Limitations of a U-Visa?

  • You must obtain certification of helpfulness in investigating or prosecuting the crime from law enforcement agency;
  • You must continuing to help law enforcement. U-Visa status is subject to revocation if no continuing assistance is provided to law enforcement;
  • Your case may be complicated if you have been convicted of crimes, committed fraud, made false claims to citizenship or have an adverse immigration history;
  • Travel is permitted with a U-Visa, but is not recommended. U-Visa holders who have been in the U.S. without permission for over 6 months risk having difficulty re-entering the country;
  • U status cannot exceed 4 years;
  • Only 10,000 U-Visas are allowed each year (not including derivatives).

Caution: As with all immigration applications, there are risks involved in bringing yourself to the attention of immigration authorities . While U-visas generously waive certain undesirable activity including the victim’s own criminal activity, you should speak with an immigration practitioner before submitting any application to immigration.

Legal representation is very important to getting a U-visa. However, you can  save time and money by preparing an affidavit or filling out forms before meeting with an immigration practitioner.

What are the Requirements for Getting the U-Visa?

Applications for a U Nonimmigrant visa require the following documentation:

  1. USCIS Form I-918 Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
  2. USCIS Form I-918A Qualifying Family Members Application for U-visa Derivative Status (if you want to apply for family members)
  3. USCIS Form I-918B U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (filled out by certifying agency. See below for a list of agencies that can help you)
  4. Affidavit of the Victim (discussing the criminal activity, substantial abuse, and helpfulness to law enforcement)
  5. I-192 Application for Advanced Permission to Enter (Waiver) if appropriate. In some cases (e.g. where there are immigration violations, false statements or crimes) you may need an additional I-192 to waive these conditions

How Can I Begin the Process of Getting Law Enforcement Certification?

To show the government that you have been helpful, are being helpful or will be helpful in any investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that a law enforcement agency fill out a certification form called USCIS Form I-918B. It is often helpful to your legal case to obtain the 918B by yourself.

  • USCIS Form I-918B can be found at the USCIS;
  • The form can be brought in to a certifying agency (for example the police that investigated the crime.);
  • If you reported the criminal activity to the police, the 918B can be filled out by the investigating police department. If the criminal activity was then prosecuted, (for example if you were interviewed by the state’s attorney or provided testimony at court), the 918B can be filled out by the prosecutor. If you are experiencing difficulty obtaining the 918B, contact the Victim/Witness Assistants division of the law enforcement or prosecutorial body;
  • Local legal service providers may be able to provide you with a person designated to sign your form 918B;
  • The 918B expires 6 months after being signed by the certifying agency. As soon as you obtain the 918B, seek legal assistance.

Certifying Agencies

  • Federal, State or Local Law enforcement agencies (for example, the local police or the FBI); or,
  • A prosecutor (for example, the state’s attorney’s office or the U.S. attorney’s office); or,
  • The judge in a criminal case. (In some states the judge in a civil order of protection can serve as the certifying agency. However, this is not the case in Illinois); or,
  • Any other authority that has responsibility for the investigation or prosecution, such as child protective services (In Illinois that is the Department of Child and Family Services, DCFS), EEOC or the Department of Labor.

Organizations That Can Help Fill Out the U-Visa Application

For a print version of this information, visit see: The U-Visa: Immigration Benefits for Crime Victims.

Note: If you cannot open the file, you may need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Helpful Organizations
The following organizations may be able to help you with

For a list of organizations in your area that may be able to help you, enter your zip code.

       

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