Written by attorney Scott Thomas Helsper

U Visas for Crime Victims

The purpose of the U visa is give victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa and applies to both legal and illegal aliens. Only 10,000 U visas may be issued every fiscal year.

If the applicant is 21 or older, only the U visa holder’s spouse and children may also qualify for U visa status. If the applicant is under 21, the U visa holder’s parents and unmarried siblings under 18 may also qualify for U visa status in addition to the spouse and children.

Holders of the U visa can stay in the United States for up to four years. Extensions are allowed if the U visa holder is required for more investigation or prosecution proceedings, or if the Department of Homeland Security has extended the stay.

An approved U visa petition will automatically grant the applicant work eligibility in the United States. An Employment Authorization Document will be included with all approved petitions, which can be shown to any employer to start work legally.

U Visa Application: An application for the U visa is filed with Form I-918, and there are different requirements that must be satisfied before an application can be submitted.

The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to a criminal activity in at least one of the following categories:





domestic violence,

sexual assault,

abusive sexual contact,


sexual exploitation,

female genital mutilation,

hostage situations,


false imprisonment,

involuntary servitude,

slave trade,



unlawful criminal restraint,





felonious assault,

witness tampering,

obstruction of justice,

perjury or attempt,

conspiracy, or

solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes. The crime must have occurred in the United States or in a U.S. territory, or violated U.S. law. All U visa petitions must include information on how the victim can assist government officials in learning more about the crime including investigation and/or prosecution of the individual(s) that committed the crime. The victim must also be willing to work with local law enforcement.

The U visa petition must be certified by a Federal, State or local law enforcement agency, such as a prosecutor or a Federal or State judge in charge of the investigation in which the petitioner is the victim. Without this certification, the U visa petition cannot be approved. If at any point the victim stops to cooperate with law enforcement, the certification can be withdrawn.

The U visa holder can be converted to a U. S. permanent resident under two conditions. He/She must have physically resided in the U.S. for at least three years and his/her reasons for continued presence must be humanitarian or public interest in nature.

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