visa for crime victims
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The U visa is a special type of visa for victims of certain crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of a criminal activity, and who are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa provides temporary legal status and work eligibility to crime victims who help U.S. law enforcement officials investigate and prosecute crimes.

What are the eligibility requirements for a U visa?

To be eligible for a U visa, the victim must:

– Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of qualifying criminal activity
– Possess information about the criminal activity
– Be helpful, have been helpful, or be likely to be helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, or other officials in detecting, investigating, prosecuting, convicting, or sentencing the criminal activity

The criminal activity must have violated U.S. laws and occurred in the United States or its territories. Qualifying crimes include:

– Abduction
– Abusive sexual contact
– Blackmail
– Domestic violence
– Extortion
– False imprisonment
– Female genital mutilation
– Fraud in foreign labor contracting
– 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 criminal activities

If the direct victim is under 21 years of age, elderly, or disabled, a parent, guardian, or next friend may file for a U visa on the victim’s behalf.

What protections does the U visa provide?

The U visa provides the following key protections and benefits:

– Legal status in the United States for up to 4 years
– Work authorization
– Ability to apply for a green card after 3 years
– Ability to travel outside the United States
– Ability to apply for certain benefits like health insurance

U visa holders can also petition for certain family members, including a spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, to receive U visas as derivative family members.

How does one apply for a U visa?

To apply for a U visa, the victim must submit a Form I-918 petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with supporting documents, including a certification from a law enforcement official investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity. This official must verify the petitioner’s helpfulness in the detection, investigation, prosecution, conviction or sentencing of the criminal activity.

In addition, the petitioner must submit additional evidence like:

– A personal statement describing the criminal activity
– Documentation that they possessed information and were helpful
– Evidence of substantial physical or mental abuse due to the crime
– Police reports
– Court documents
– Medical records
– Other relevant documents

There is a limit of 10,000 U visas available each fiscal year. Applicants who meet the requirements but exceed the cap are placed on a waiting list to receive U visas in subsequent years.


The U visa provides critical protection and support for immigrant victims of serious crimes in the United States. While the eligibility requirements are strict, the U visa can provide life-changing stability, security, and peace of mind for vulnerable crime victims who assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of criminal perpetrators.


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