Victims of Crimes – U Visa
The U Visa was created for victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
If you meet the requirements (listed below), you may qualify even if you are outside of the United States.
What are the Requirements
To apply, the applicant must prove ALL of the following elements:
- The applicant must have been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
- The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of these criminal activities.
- The applicant must have information concerning that criminal activity.
- The applicant must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The criminal activity occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- The applicant is admissible to the United States under current U.S. immigration laws and regulations.
Note: There is no time limit, and it does not matter how long ago the crime took place.
Work Authorization through a U-Visa
The number of U visas available each year is limited to 10,000. Although the cap is reached each year, your case will be placed on a waiting list for future eligible U visas in years to come. Petitioners who are conditionally approved and placed on the waiting list will be granted deferred action and are eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting for additional U visas to become available. Work authorization is typically good for two years at a time, and may be renewed.
Getting Permanent Residence (a Green Card) with a U-Visa
After three years of continuous physical presence in the United States while in U nonimmigrant status, a U visa holder may be eligible to adjust status and become a Lawful Permanent Resident (get a green card). Spouses, children and parents (but not siblings) may also be able to benefit from the principal applicant’s petition if it is granted.
Abused Spouse, Children, and Parents Protected under VAWA
Victims of domestic violence may be eligible for certain immigration benefits, as provided under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Please note the benefits offered through VAWA apply equally to women and men victims.
Historically foreign spouses have been at risk of being held captive by relationships to which their legal immigration status was tied, which Congress sought to remedy with the self-petition.
Under the law, victims related to citizens and lawful permanent residents may file a self-petition, without the abuser’s knowledge. Therefore, the victim can seek a level of protection and independence from the abuser, who is not made aware of the filing.
To qualify, the foreign national must be married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, as with the typical petitions discussed above. Following statutory amendments in 2000, self-petitions are available following divorce, so long as they are sought within two years of dissolution. The children of the abused spouse may also qualify. Similarly, the former spouse of a U.S. citizen or resident may qualify if her children suffered abuse from the citizen/resident (regardless of whether the foreign spouse was abused).
If you need help, please call our office at 1-833-872-6863 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline has information about shelters and mental health care services.
Those Eligible to File
Spouse: You may file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You may also file as an abused spouse if your child has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You may also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.
Parent: You may file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
Child: You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, unmarried and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. You may also file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.
Work Authorization through VAWA
If you have an approved, you are eligible to apply to work in the United States. Your children, listed on your approved application, may also apply for work authorization.
Getting Permanent Residence (a Green Card) through VAWA
If you have an approved for VAWA, you may be eligible to file for a green card. If you are a self-petitioning spouse or child, your children listed on your approved application may also be eligible to apply for a green card.