How Does U Visa Work

VisaThe U visa was created by Congress to protect and assist victims who assist law enforcement agencies’ efforts to investigate and prosecute domestic violence, sexual assault, alien trafficking, and other crimes. The U visa is available to any foreign national who suffered physical or mental abuse as a victim of a qualifying crime that violated U.S. laws, has information about the crime, and was, is, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

Foreign national victims may petition from outside the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Act puts a cap on the number of U visas at 10,000 per fiscal year. Qualifying crimes for the U visa include abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, genital female mutilation, felonious assault, being held hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trading, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes.

U visa applications must contain a certification from a U.S. law enforcement agency or relevant investigative or prosecutorial authority to demonstrate that the foreign national victim has been, is currently being, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the related crime. Attestation by law enforcement of both abuse to the alien national and subsequent assistance by that individual serves to prevent immigration fraud.

Foreign national victims apply for a U visa using a Form I-918 “Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status” along with supporting documentation to be filed with USCIS’s Vermont Service Center. USCIS conducts a review of all evidence submitted. This is as if the VSC were considering the question for the first time. Therefore, USCIS may evaluate evidence previously submitted for other immigration benefits but it is not bound by its previous decisions. Petitioners subject to final orders of removal may still be removed during adjudication of their U visa petitions.

Successful petitioners receive a U visa, classifying them as a temporary nonimmigrant, with duration of stay of up to four years. Denied petitioners are informed of the reasons for the denial in writing. U visa holders can ultimately adjust to permanent resident (green card) status if they have lived continuously in the United States for at least three years since receiving their U visa, and they have not refused to provide assistance to law enforcement, and they can demonstrate that their continued presence in the United States is justified on the basis of family cohesion or the national or public interest.

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