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If you have been a victim of certain crimes, the U visa may provide you with legal status and support. However, you may be required to assist law enforcement in investigating criminal activity. 

This visa offers legal protection and the possibility of applying for the Green Card in the future. Additionally, it is designed to protect victims, ensuring that they do not face legal retaliation, such as deportation.

What Is The U Visa In The United States 

The U visa is a type of non-immigrant visa granted to people who have been victims of crimes that involve physical or mental abuse. This legislation is intended to strengthen law enforcement agencies against violence, mistreatment, aggression, and crimes in general.

This U visa was created in 2000 by the United States Congress in order to help victims of a crime and motivate them to lend their help to official agencies for the investigation of the crime without feeling the fear of being deported from the United States.


In the U. S, immigration laws intersect with criminal laws very frequently, in our section on Crimmigration  you can more about the topic.

Types Of U Visas

Types of U visas include: 

  • U-1 : Victims of crimes who meet the requirements. 
  • U-2 : Spouses of the main beneficiary U-1, 
  • U-3 : Children of the main beneficiary U-1, 
  • U-4 : Parents of the U-1 holder. However, the holder must be under 21 years of age.
  • U-5 : Unmarried siblings under 18 years of age of the holder. The holder must be under 21 years of age.

What Benefits Does The U Visa Provide?

The U visa provides several benefits for eligible foreigners such as:

  • Being eligible for a work permit and social security number (SSN).
  • Applying for lawful permanent residence (Green Card) after holding the U visa for a few years.
  • Some family members who are not victims of crime may be eligible for the U visa.
  • Be protected from deportation, maintaining legal status in the United States.

If you are looking for how to stop removal proceedings, perhaps an application for stay of deportation can help you.

What Are The Disadvantages Of The U Visa?

Disadvantages of the U visa include long processing periods and susceptibility to divergent discretionary decisions. This is due to changes in enforcement priorities and other policies involved in making a decision.

u visa application form

Other Limitations Of The U Visa

  • The U visa is temporary and cannot be renewed.
  • It is only possible to apply for the Green Card after maintaining this visa for several years in the U. S.
  • There is yearly cap of 10,000 U visas, which can result in long periods awaiting before obtaining one.
  • Applicants eligible for the U visa will be placed on a waiting list and will receive employment authorization while awaiting visa availability.
  • Traveling abroad is not recommended. Additionally, those who have been in the country unlawfuly for more than 180 days may face difficulties in applying for residency.
  • Complications may arise due to criminal records or violations of immigration laws.

Although applicants can apply for a waiver of inadmissibility, it is advisable to have the help of our immigration lawyers in New Jersey.

What Does It Take To Qualify For The U Visa In 2024?

To be eligible for the U visa, you must meet these criteria:

  • Be a victim of one of the following crimes that occurred in the United States:
    • 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
    • Other Related Crimes
  • Having suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime.
  • Possess relevant information about the crime.
  • Was, is or probably may be useful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

If you are under 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, another individual may do so on your behalf. These may be one of your parents, guardian or legal representative.

bona Fide Determination Process

victims of physical or mental abuse with a u visa in the usa

Due to the increase in applications for this visa, USCIS reviews U visa applications under the bona fide determination process for applicants and family members. This will be to evaluate whether the request meets the established criteria. 

With the bona fide determination (BFD) process, applicants are expected to receive employment authorization and deferred action much sooner. 

How To Apply For The U Visa In 2024?

To apply for the U visa, you must present the following documents to USCIS:

  • Form I-918, petition for U nonimmigrant status.
  • Supplement B, certification of U nonimmigrant status, to Form I-918. It must be signed by a law enforcement official certifying that you have contributed or will contribute to the investigation of the case.
  • Evidence that demonstrates each of the eligibility requirements.
  • A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim.
  • Form I-192, application for advance parole of entry as an immigrant, in case there is an issue of inadmissibility.

Apply For The U Visa From Outside The United States

You can also apply for this visa if you are abroad. To do this, you must:

  • Submit all previously shown forms to the Vermont Service Center.
  • Follow all required instructions sent by this center. Such indications include fingerprinting.
  • Carry out the consular process to access the United States. Afterwards, you must interview with the consular affairs officer at the US embassy or consulate. 

Through this link, you can locate the American embassies or consulates closest to you.

Apply For The U Visa For Eligible Family Members

Certain family members of foreigners with a U visa may be eligible for a derived U visa. Therefore, if you are the main beneficiary of this visa, you must:

  • Be under 21 years of age. Then, you can petition your spouse, children, parents and single relatives under 18 years of age, or
  • Be 21 years of age or older. If so, you can only petition your spouse or children. 

Once you meet these requirements, you must process Supplement A, Petition for Immediate Relative of a Nonimmigrant U to Form I-918, with USCIS. This can be done at the same time as you submit your application or at a later time.

u. s family based immigration

On our blog, we have a complete section on U. S. family-based immigration. These blogs address specific topics to petition relatives.

How Much Does It Cost To Apply For The U Visa?

The U visa is free, so you will not have to pay anything to apply for it. However, some applicants must pay an additional U visa fee for crimes or violations of immigration laws. 

If you submit an additional payment, you may be able to file Form I-912, request for fee waiver, with USCIS. Another way is to submit your own handwritten request for fee waiver with your initial visa application.

How Long Does It Take To get an Approved U Visa?

Currently, USCIS requires approximately 6 years to complete the processing of U visa applications. This process involves:

  • Collection of biometric data (photographs and fingerprints),
  • Processing of all forms, and 
  • Supporting information (such as Certification of helpfulness from a qualified agency).

Once all this is done, an approval notice and work permit will be issued. It should be noted that this information is indicative, so processing time may vary significantly.

For example, if USCIS needs more information, it will issue a request for evidence (RFE). This will suspend the process until you submit the required documents. 

How Can I Check The Status Of My U Visa?

You can check the processing times for U visas on the USCIS web portal: Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only shows the processing times for determining the waiting list. 

Although they may update the page to include processing times for bona fide determinations in the future.

u visa for victims of mental or physical crimes

What is the U visa validity period?

The U visa lasts 4 years, but an extension can be requested in particular circumstances:

  • At the request of a law enforcement agency.
  • Due to exceptional circumstances.
  • When submitting the adjustment of status application.
  • Due to delays with the consular process.

What Happens After A U Visa Is Approved? 

Once U visa approval is obtained, the next step is to remain in the U. S. for the designated time. After this, you will be able to apply for lawful permanent residence by meeting the requirements. 

how to get us citizenship

If you remain a legal permanent resident for a few years, you may be able to complete the US citizenship process. You may be interested in reviewing our section dedicated to mistakes when filling the N-400 naturalization application.

What Is The Difference Between The T And U Visa?

The main difference is that the U visa is for victims of certain crimes, while the T visa is for victims of human trafficking and migrant smuggling

Another distinction is that those who apply for a U visa must cooperate more extensively with law enforcement. 

In some cases, T visa applicants will also have to cooperate with authorities, but this is less common compared to the U visa.

Other Reliefs For Victims In The U. S.

There are other alternatives to the U visa and T visa in the U. S. for all those applicants who have been a victim of crime, violence or their health is at stake. These options are:

How To Apply For The Green Card Through The U Visa?

You can adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident if:

  • You have been physically in the United States for at least 3 years while maintaining your U visa, and
  • You have not refused to offer assistance to law enforcement since receiving U nonimmigrant status.

Family Members Deriving Status

If a family member qualifies for a Green Card, they can apply for it by submitting their own Form I-485 to USCIS , even if they have never had a U visa. To do so, you must submit a Form I-929 for each eligible family member. 

You can file this form at the same time or after filing your I-485. If the I-929 application is approved, the family members will be able to:

  1. File the I-485 within the U. S, or
  2. Visit the American embassy or consulate outside the U. S. to obtain an immigrant visa. 

What Happens After I Submit The Green Card Application?

After completing the procedures for the U visa, the waiting time is long. In response, the government offers a provisional status that includes an employment authorization and deferred action until the final decision of the immigration agency.

how to get a job in the united states while being illegal

This could end up being one of the ways to get a job in the United States being illegal, another path is through a PERM labor certification.

What Is Deferred Action For U Visa?

Deferred Action for the U Visa offers temporary relief from deportation to those who meet certain requirements. 

Although it allows you to remain legally in the United States, it does not provide a direct path to lawful permanent residence. 

Additionally, it must be renewed every two years while the U Visa application is pending. If the U visa application is denied, the deferred action expires. 

What Is The U Visa Success Rate?

On average, the U visa success rate is around 87%. However, each case is different, so it is advisable to have the help of well-versed lawyers like Carolina T. Curbelo and Sharon Lieberman.

How To Prove That I Was A Victim Of A Crime?

To obtain a U visa, it is necessary to prove that you are the victim of a qualifying crime. It is essential to relate the facts in a personal statement and collect evidence. For example, official reports or files.

In most cases, the direct victim (the one who suffered the crime) will file the U visa application. However, USCIS also accepts applications from individuals who were not direct victims but suffered crimes against their close family members.

U Visa Certification of helpfulness

A U visa petition must include a certification of U nonimmigrant status from a certifying law enforcement agency. This document confirms the applicant’s usefulness in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activities. 

Certifying agencies include:

  • Police agencies, 
  • Prosecutors, 
  • Federal, state or local judges. 

This also applies to child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor (DOL).

Immigration Lawyers In New Jersey For A U Visa

Both U visa and T visa cases are usually complex since each personal circumstance is different.

The process requires specific documents and tests to be eligible, otherwise you will find it very difficult to obtain a visa on your own. Therefore, it is best to have professional advice.

You can send us a message today through the contact form or call us and our lawyers will read it and be able to assist you. This does not commit you to anything and can help you a lot.

At Curbelo Law we have more than 10 years of experience in immigration matters. Talk to our team of Latino professionals in Spanish or English today.