U visas

What is the U Visa?

The U nonimmigrant visa allows individuals who are victims of certain crimes and who have suffered mental or physical abuse to temporarily come to the United States to help law enforcement or government officials investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Who Qualifies for the U Visa?

In order to receive a U visa, an individual applicant must:

  • Be the victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
  • Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from having been a victim of criminal activity;
  • Have been a victim of the crime in the United States, or the crime violated U.S. laws;
  • Have information about the criminal activity;
  • Be helpful, or have been helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime;
  • Be admissible to the United States.

What is a Qualifying Criminal Activity for the U Visa?

As part of the eligibility for the U visa, an applicant must be a victim of a qualifying crime. Among the qualifying crimes, attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation, as well as completion of a crime, can be qualifying. Additionally, a crime may be qualifying if it includes any similar activity as the below-listed crimes such that the elements of the crime are substantially similar. The qualifying crimes include:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint

What is the Process to Obtain a U Visa?

The process to obtain a U visa involves several steps. Some steps of the process may vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant applies. In order to receive an U visa, the below steps must be followed:

Step One: File Form I-918 and Supplement B

The first step to apply for a U nonimmigrant visa is to file Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status and Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The completion of Supplement B is at the discretion of the certifying agency; however, a completed and signed Supplement B is necessary for a U visa petition to be approved. Any petition submitted without Supplement B will be denied. Supplement B must be completed entirely by the certifying agency and the completed certification must be given to the petitioner to submit to USCIS. The certifying agency should not submit Supplement B directly to the USCIS.

When submitting Supplement B, it must be signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency. A certifying law enforcement agency includes:

  • Any federal, state, tribal, territorial, or local law enforcement office or agency;
  • A prosecutor, judge, or other authority that has responsibility to detect, investigate, or prosecute the crime or convict or sentence the perpetrator;
  • Agencies with criminal investigative jurisdiction, including child and adult protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and federal and state Departments of Labor.

An authorized official of a certifying law enforcement agency, who must sign Supplement B, includes:

  • The head of the certifying law enforcement agency;
  • Any person in a supervisory role who is specifically designated by the head of the agency to sign;
  • A federal, state, or local judge.

An applicant may petition to have family members come to the United States with them by filing Form I-918 Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Member of U-1 Recipient.

Once Form I-918 is approved, the applicant will receive Form I-797, Notice of Action from the USCIS.

Step Two: File Form DS-160 Online

After the applicant’s employer files Form I-129, the applicant must submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and upload a photo that conforms with the U.S. Department of States photograph requirements.

Step Three: Schedule and Attend Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate

After Form DS-160 is submitted, Form I-797 is received, and all application fees are paid, the applicant must schedule an appointment for his or her visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the applicant lives. The applicant will be required to provide ink-free, digital fingerprint scans at the interview.

The applicant must bring certain documents with them to his or her visa interview, including:

  • A valid passport;
  • Confirmation page for Form DS-160;
  • Application fee payment receipt;
  • Photo conforming to photograph requirements;
  • Receipt number for approved petition Form I-129;
  • Form I-797, Notice of Action

Can Someone Come to the United States on Victim’s Behalf?

When a victim of a qualifying crime is under the age of 16 or is unable to provide information due to a disability, the victim’s parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on the victim’s behalf. A next friend is someone who appears in a lawsuit to act for the benefit of the victim because the victim is incapacitated or incompetent, under the age of 16, or suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the qualifying criminal activity.

What if the Victim of a Crime is Not Admissible to the United States?

If a victim who is eligible for a U visa is otherwise not admissible to the United States, he or she may apply for a waiver of inadmissibility by filing Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant. An applicant may be inadmissible for a variety of reasons, including health, criminal reasons, national security reasons, among others.

Can a U Visa Holder Work in the United States?

If an applicant for a U visa is admitted to the United States, once in the United States he or she is permitted to work in the United States under the U visa. Once Form I-918 is approved and the applicant is granted nonimmigrant status under the U visa, the USCIS is automatically issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

How Long is the U Visa Valid?

A U visa holder may legally live in the United States for four years under the U visa. Once an individual has had a U visa for three years, he or she may apply for a Green Card to stay in the United States permanently or apply for an extension of U visa status. To extend U visa status or apply for permanent residence, a U visa holder must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Any family members of the U visa holder may concurrently file for adjustment of status or extension of status concurrently with U visa holder’s application.

If the U visa holder does not receive an extension or adjustment of status, he or she must depart the United States on or before the date indicated on his or her admission stamp or on Form I-94, Request Travel History and Check Travel Compliance.

How Much Does it Cost to Obtain an U Visa?

There is no filing fee for Form I-918. Generally, the cost to file Form DS-160 is $160 and the cost to file Form I-912, if necessary, is $930 to file with the USCIS and $585 to file directly with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). However, an applicant may petition for a fee waiver for any form that is necessary to apply for the U visa by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver with the USCIS or by including a written request for a fee waiver with the application or petition.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.