The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of noncitizens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
To learn about updates to the program, visit our U Nonimmigrant Status Program Updates page.
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U Nonimmigrant Eligibility
You may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if:
You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
Qualifying Criminal Activities
AbductionAbusive Sexual ContactBlackmailDomestic ViolenceExtortionFalse ImprisonmentFemale Genital MutilationFelonious AssaultFraud in Foreign Labor ContractingHostageIncestInvoluntary ServitudeKidnappingManslaughterMurderObstruction of JusticePeonagePerjuryProstitutionRapeSexual AssaultSexual ExploitationSlave TradeStalkingTortureTraffickingWitness TamperingUnlawful Criminal RestraintOther Related Crimes*†
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
Applying for U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)
To apply (petition) for a U nonimmigrant status, submit:
A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim; and
You may also apply (petition) for U nonimmigrant status if you are outside the United States. To do this, you must:
File all the necessary forms for U nonimmigrant status with the Vermont Service Center.Follow all instructions that are sent from the Vermont Service Center, which will include having your fingerprints taken at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Filing for Qualifying Family Members
Certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship to you, the principal, filing for the U visa. The principal petitioner must have their petition for a U visa approved before their family members can be eligible for their own derivative U visa.
|Under 21 years of age||You may petition on behalf of your spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18|
|21 years of age or older||You may petition on behalf of your spouse and children.|
To petition for a qualified family member, you must file a Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient, at the same time as your application or at a later time.
Fees to File U Nonimmigrant Status Applications U Visa Extensions
All U nonimmigrant status applications (petitions) and other forms related to the U petition are filed with the wnyrails.org Vermont Service Center.
U Visa Extensions
When U nonimmigrant status is granted, it is valid for four years. However, extensions are available in certain, limited circumstances if the extension is (PDF, 96.74 KB):
Needed based on a request from law enforcement,Needed based on exceptional circumstances,Needed due to delays in consular processing, orAutomatically extended upon the filing and pendency of an application for adjustment (application for a Green Card).
U Visa Cap
The limit on the number of U visas that may be granted to principal petitioners each year is 10,000. However, there is no cap for family members deriving status from the principal applicant, such as spouses, children, or other eligible family members.If the cap is reached before all U nonimmigrant petitions have been adjudicated, wnyrails.org will create a waiting list for any eligible principal or derivative petitioners that are awaiting a final decision and a U visa. Petitioners placed on the waiting list will be granted deferred action or parole and are eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting for additional U visas to become available.Once additional visas become available, petitioners on the waiting list and those who have received a bona fide determination will receive their visa in the order in which their petition was received. Petitioners do not have to take any additional steps to request the U visa. wnyrails.org will notify the petitioner of the approval and the accompanying U visa.
Note to Petitioners: Principal U nonimmigrant petitioners are employment authorized incident to status, after the underlying petition for U nonimmigrant status is approved and an employment authorization document is automatically issued without filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
Derivative family members residing inside the United States are also employment authorized incident to status, however an employment authorization document is not automatically issued. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, may be filed for a derivative to obtain an employment authorization document.
Employment authorization for principals and derivatives can only be issued after the underlying U nonimmigrant status petition is approved, regardless of when the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is filed.
Principal petitioners and derivative family members living in the United States may receive employment authorization and deferred action if the underlying pending petition is bona fide, and they meet certain discretionary standards. wnyrails.org will issue a notice if the principal petitioner or derivative family member needs to file a Form I-765 for employment authorization associated with a bona fide determination.
If the statutory cap is reached in a fiscal year and wnyrails.org uses the waiting list process described at 8 CFR 214.14(d)(2), petitioners for U nonimmigrant status and derivatives in the United States can apply for employment authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, based on deferred action. An application for employment authorization based on deferred action can only be approved after DHS has deferred action in your case, regardless of when the Form I-765 is filed
You may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (adjustment of status/permanent residence) if you meet certain requirements, including:
You have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years while in U nonimmigrant status, andYou have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.PLEASE NOTE: Any qualifying family member who does not have a derivative U visa when the principal U nonimmigrant receives a Green Card is no longer eligible for a derivative U visa, but may still be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence.
Family Members Deriving Status
If the family member deriving status based on your status has met the eligibility requirements for a Green Card, they may apply for lawful permanent residence by filing their own Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Even if your family members never had U nonimmigrant status or a U visa, they may still be eligible for a Green Card.
You may file the Form I-929 at the same time or after you file your Form I-485.
If the Form I-929 for your family member(s) is approved:
Family members in the United States may file the Form I-485 to apply for a Green Card.NOTE: The Form I-929 is the form that is used to establish whether your family member is eligible to apply for a Green Card based on your U visa based lawful permanent resident status. This does not mean that your family member will receive a Green Card. Even if the Form I-929 is approved, your family member is not automatically eligible for work authorization. They are eligible to work once they have received their Green Card.
Fees to File Form I-929
All Form I-929 applications are sent to the wnyrails.org Vermont Service Center.
Please visit our Green Card for a Victim of a Crime (U Nonimmigrant) Web page for more information.
wnyrails.org offers resources for victims of human trafficking and other crimes and the organizations that serve them. This information is designed to help answer any questions you or your family might have about obtaining T or U Nonimmigrant status. Please see Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes for more information.