U Nonimmigrant Status for Victims of Criminal Activity
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is 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. The purpose of granting a U nonimmigrant statusto eligible applicants is to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens 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. This also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
A person may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa or status if:
Victims of any one of 28 criminal activities who cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of suchcriminal activities, suffer harm, and receive government certification for such cooperation, are eligible for Unonimmigrant status.Qualifying crimes include ( but are not limited to): rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, being held hostage, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the aforementioned crimes.
Process to Obtain the U Visa:
To petition for U nonimmigrant status, the victim or someone petitioning on the victim's behalf must submit Form I-918 to USCIS. A petition for U nonimmigrant status must also contain a certification of helpfulness from a "certifying agency". That means the victim must provide a U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918, Supplement B) from a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency that demonstrates the petitioner "has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful" in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. [Each client must bring a copy of the police report filed by the victim/applicant or filed by someone else on their behalf. We can contact the law enforcement agency who investigated the case and request a certification of the client's assistance.] Further, the head of the agency must sign the certification. Certified agencies include federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies; or a prosecutor, judge or other authority that has responsibility for the investigation of the criminal activity. Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor also qualify as certifying agencies since they have criminal investigative jurisdiction within their respective areas of expertise.
A Form I-929 petition may also be submitted for eligible family members to obtain U nonimmigrant status as a derivative.
Immigrant Visa Petition for Battered Spouse, Children & Parents
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a battered spouse, child or parent, may file an immigrant visa petition. The VAWA provisions in the INA allow certain spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and certain spouses and children of permanent residents (Green Card holders) to file a petition for themselves, without the abuser's knowledge. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing.
VAWA "self-petition":Under the provisions of VAWA, a battered spouse, child or parent may file a "self-petition" for lawful permanent resident status without the cooperation of an abusive spouse, parent, or adult child who is a U.S. citizen or a "green-card" holder.If the VAWA self-petition is approved, the applicant can obtain work authorization, and may be able to apply for lawful permanent residence ("green card") status.
The VAWA provisions apply equally to women and men.There is no numerical limit to the number of VAWA self-petitions that may be filed in any given year.
Who can file