Overview of U Nonimmigrant Status or the “U Visa”
The U nonimmigrant status, or the “U Visa” as it is more commonly known, is a form of immigration relief available to individuals who have been the victim of certain crimes. The U Visa was created by Congress in 2000, so the process is still relatively new and many individuals who may qualify for a U Visa are unaware of the option.
In order to be eligible to apply for a U Visa, you must demonstrate:
You are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity (you can view the full list here);
You suffered physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of this crime;
You have information about the criminal activity and were helpful to police or another government agency in the investigation or prosecution of the crime;
The crime happened in the U.S. or the crime violated a U.S. law;
You are admissible to the U.S. or you are eligible to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.
In order to apply for a U Visa, you must submit Form I-918 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with evidence of the harm you suffered and a personal statement describing the harm.
You must also submit Form I-918, Supplement B, which is a certification form which must be signed by the government agency investigating or prosecuting the crime. Soberalski Immigration Law typically requests these certifications directly from the appropriate government agency.
Please note: Government agencies are not required to sign Form I-918, Supplement B or “certifications.” It is left to the discretion of each agency whether they will sign U Visa certifications or not. However, a certification is required to apply for a U Visa with USCIS.
Some qualifying family members may be eligible to be included as derivatives of your application based on their relationship to you.
If you are over 21 years of age, you may include your spouse and/or children. If you are under 21 years of age, you may include your spouse, your children, your parents, and/or your unmarried siblings (if they are under 18 years of age).
USCIS Filing Fees:
The application for a U Visa (Form I-918) is free. There may be filing fees for other forms you may need to submit along with your U Visa application. However, you may be eligible for a fee waiver for these other applications. Please ask your attorney if you qualify for a fee waiver.
U Visa Annual Cap:
USCIS may only approve 10,000 U Visas to principal applicants per fiscal year (October through September). Derivative applicants are not subject to the annual cap.
If the cap is reached before the end of the fiscal year, which it has for the past several years, USCIS will create a waiting list of eligible principal applicants who are waiting for a visa to become available. Those individuals placed on the waiting list will be granted deferred action and are eligible to apply for work authorization until additional U Visas are available.
Currently, the Vermont & Nebraska Service Centers, where USCIS processes U Visa applications, are reviewing applications in the order in which they are received. At the moment, the approximate wait time is about two years.
Applying for Residency:
If an individual is approved for a U Visa, their status is valid for four years. You may be eligible to apply for Legal Permanent Residency after you have been in U status for three years and have lived in the U.S. continuously during those three years. Additionally, you must continue to cooperate with law enforcement or the government agency in your case.
Please note this is an overview of the U Visa and is not meant to be legal advice. Soberalski Immigration Law has experience preparing U Visa applications and are able to help you with the process. Please contact our office if you have questions about your eligibility or about the process in general.