U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is for victims of crimes who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. This visa category was created to encourage victims to report and contribute to investigations and prosecutions regardless of their immigration status.
To become eligible for the U nonimmigrant status the individual must meet four requirements:
- The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
- The individual must have information concerning that criminal activity.
- The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The criminal activity violated U.S. laws.
Criminal activity is defined as being an activity involving one or more activities that violate U.S. criminal law, including:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- Felonious Assault
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
For a complete list of other qualifying criminal activity, please visit the USCIS website.
A person may hold a U nonimmigrant status visa for no longer than four years. However, extensions are available upon certification by a certifying agency, that the individual’s presence in the United States is required in order to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity.
A “certifying agency” can be Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges or other authority that investigates or prosecutes criminal activity. Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor also are considered certifying agencies.
In many cases, the individual may apply for Lawful Permanent Residence after their U visa status expires. There are specific requirements to apply and we suggest contacting our office for further details.
The USCIS does set a cap of 10,000 U nonimmigrant visas for any given year (October 1 through September 30) so if you think you qualify or if you have any questions related to a specific case, please contact our office.