What is U nonimmigrant status?
U nonimmigrant status, also known as a U visa, is a nonimmigrant visa category designed for victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes.
The U visa provides temporary immigration benefits to eligible individuals and allows them to stay in the U.S. for up to four years, with the possibility of obtaining lawful permanent residence (a green card) after three years.
To be eligible for a U visa, an applicant must meet the following criteria:
- Be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other serious crimes.
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime.
- Have information about the criminal activity and be willing to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
Who is eligible to apply for U nonimmigrant status?
To be eligible to apply for U nonimmigrant status (U visa), an individual must meet the following requirements:
- Victim of Qualifying Crime: see the list of qualifying crimes below
- Suffered Substantial Physical or Mental Abuse: The victim must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity.
- Possession of Information: The applicant must possess information concerning the criminal activity.
- Willingness to Cooperate: The victim must be willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.
- Law Enforcement Certification: The applicant must obtain a certification from a law enforcement agency confirming their cooperation in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. This certification is crucial for U visa eligibility.
It’s important to note that family members who meet the criteria may also be eligible to apply for derivative U visa status, including spouses, children, and, in certain circumstances, parents and unmarried siblings under 18 years old.
List of crimes qualifying for U nonimmigrant status
According to USCIS, the list of qualifying crimes includes:
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other 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.
Are family members eligible to apply for U nonimmigrant status?
Yes, certain family members of the principal U nonimmigrant (U visa) may be eligible to apply for derivative U nonimmigrant status.
The principal U visa holder is the individual who is the victim of the qualifying crime and has been granted U nonimmigrant status.
The following family members may be eligible for derivative U visa status:
|Who can apply for derivative U nonimmigrant status
|Under 21 years of age
|21 years of age or older
U nonimmigrant visa cap
The U nonimmigrant visa program is subject to an annual cap, which limits the number of U visas that can be issued each fiscal year.
The cap is set at 10,000 U visas issued to principal U nonimmigrant applicants per fiscal year.
However, there is no cap for family members applying for derivative U status such as spouses, children and other family members of principal U status holders.
How to apply for U nonimmigrant status?
To apply for U nonimmigrant status (U visa), individuals must take the following steps:
Step 1. Complete Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status:
- Obtain the latest edition of Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, from the USCIS website.
- USCIS will reject any outdated editions of Form I-918
- Fill out the form accurately and completely. Sign and date the form in ink
- USCIS does not accept computer-generated or stamped signatures
- Fill out and submit Form G-1145 to receive an electronic notification containing USCIS receipt number by text message or email
Step 2. Gather Supporting Documentation:
- Collect all the necessary supporting documents (see the checklist below)
- Unless directed otherwise, submit only photocopies of the documents
Step 3. Obtain Law Enforcement Certification:
- Submit Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification signed by an authorized law enforcement official
- Collect evidence demonstrating that you were helpful, and currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case
Step 4. Complete Form I-918 for eligible family members (if applicable):
- If you have eligible family members, you can list them on Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient
- See the list of eligible family members above
- Your family members can apply for U derivative status together with you, or after your U status is approved
Step 5. Submit the Application:
- Mail the completed Form I-918, along with all supporting documentation and the law enforcement certification to USCIS
- Check the correct filing address on the USCIS website (“Where to File”)
- It’s recommended to mail the application via express mail with a tracking number
- Make a copy of the completed application for your records
Step 6. Check Application Status:
- USCIS will mail the receipt notice 2-3 weeks after the submission date
- You can track the status of your application online by entering the receipt number
Step 7. Attend Biometrics Appointment:
- Once USCIS receives the application, the applicant may be scheduled for a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photograph and signature
- Attending the biometrics appointment is mandatory. Failure to attend the appointment might result in denial of your application
Step 8. Wait for USCIS Processing:
- USCIS will review the application and make a decision. If additional information is required, they may request it by issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE)
- If approved, the applicant will receive a Notice of Approval and be granted U nonimmigrant status.
- If denied, USCIS will provide reasons for the denial, and the applicant may have the opportunity to appeal the decision.
How much does it cost to apply for U nonimmigrant status?
There is no fee to apply for U nonimmigrant status.
However, you can request a fee waiver for other forms you are filing with your U application:
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
- Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
What documents are required to apply for U nonimmigrant status?
The following documents must be submitted with your Form I-918 application (submit photocopies only):
|Examples of acceptable documents
|Completed and signed Form I-918
|Original signed Form I-918, Supplement B
|If applying for a family member
|G-1145 form (optional)
|Evidence that you are a victim of a qualifying crime
|Evidence of substantial physical or mental abuse
|Evidence that you possess information concerning the crime
|Evidence of helpfulness in investigation or prosecution of the crime
|Evidence that criminal activity is qualifying and violated US law or occurred in the U.S.
|Waiver of grounds of inadmissibility (if applicable)
|Only if you or your family members answered “Yes” to any of the questions in Part 3 of Form I-918 or Part 5 of Form I-918, Supplement B:
How long does the U nonimmigrant status last?
U nonimmigrant status, often referred to as the U visa, is initially granted for a period of up to four years.
During this time, individuals with U nonimmigrant status are allowed to live and work in the U.S.
After three years of continuous presence in the U.S. in U nonimmigrant status, individuals may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card) under certain conditions.
Extensions of U status are available in limited circumstances, such as:
- Extension is based on a request from law enforcement
- Extension is based on exceptional circumstances
- Extension is needed due to delays in consular processing, or
- Automatic extension upon filing of an Adjustment of Status application
What are the benefits of U nonimmigrant status?
U nonimmigrant status, commonly known as the U visa, provides the following benefits:
- Temporary Legal Status: U visa recipients are granted temporary legal status in the U.S. for up to four years. This allows them to live and work in the country without the fear of deportation.
- Employment Authorization: U visa holders are eligible for employment authorization, allowing them to work legally in the U.S. during the period of their U nonimmigrant status.
- Derivative Status for Family Members: Eligible family members, including spouses, children, and in certain cases parents and unmarried siblings under 18, may also be granted derivative U nonimmigrant status. This allows family members to live and work in the U.S. during the same period as the principal U visa holder.
- Path to Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card): After three years of continuous presence in the U.S. in U nonimmigrant status, individuals may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card) under certain conditions. This provides permanent immigration status.
How to apply for employment authorization as a U nonimmigrant?
U principal nonimmigrants are not required to separately file Form I-765 to apply for employment authorization.
If the principal’s T nonimmigrant status is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which serves as proof of employment authorization and can be used to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).
However, family members of U nonimmigrant applicants who are physically present in the US must file a separate Form I-765 with USCIS to apply for employment authorization.
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can be issued to family members only after U status is approved.
Learn more: Form I-765 Instructions, How to Fill Out
How long does it take for U nonimmigrant status to be approved?
It can take about 64.5 months to process Form I-918 applications.
To check the most current processing times for Form I-918:
- Visit the USCIS website at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times
- Select “Form I-918”
Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.
Additionally, USCIS may issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) during the processing of your application, which can add to the overall processing time.
It’s crucial to respond promptly and thoroughly if you receive an RFE to avoid delays.
If your case is outside the normal processing time, you place an Outside Normal Processing Time e-Request or request assistance from your local congressman’s office.