Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
September 21, 2021

What needs to be included in my U visa application?

*Please note that reading this section is not enough to be sure you are filing everything you need. We strongly encourage you to find an attorney with experience working in U visas to help you.*

With an attorney’s help, you will fill out an “Application for U Nonimmigrant Status,” which is called Form I-918. You must also include the Form I-918 Supplement B (the law enforcement certification). Depending on your situation, you may include the Form I-192 (the waiver for any grounds of inadmissibility) and the Form I-765 (for a work permit). You should consult with your attorney to see which forms to file in your case.

Along with the forms mentioned above, you must send USCIS a personal statement that describes how you were victimized.1 The personal statement is very important. It is the only opportunity you have to tell your story and for USCIS to hear your “voice.” An attorney or a crime victim advocate can help you organize your story but it should be in your own words. You should also use your statement to explain how you meet the other requirements, especially if you don’t have a lot of other documents to support your case.

You will want to send supporting evidence to show that you are eligible for a U visa.2 If you are seeing a mental health therapist or counselor, a statement from that person could be supporting evidence. The therapist can describe the facts of the crime as you told them to him/her and how the crime affected you, which may be very helpful to show the “substantial harm” requirement. If it would re-traumatize you to explain the details of what you experienced and its effect in your personal statement, the counselor could do that for you as long as the counselor can describe everything in detail for you, based on what you told him/her. The goal of this law is to help crime victims, not re-traumatize them.

Other supporting evidence includes anything from medical, legal, or social service systems that supports your own story and helps to prove that you meet the requirements. USCIS likes evidence from other “systems” because people work in those systems are considered “experts.” USCIS will, however, look at evidence from other sources too, especially if you and your lawyer explain: (1) why you couldn’t get “systems” evidence; and (2) why this source of the supporting (corroborating) evidence is believable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable.

1 8 CFR § 214.14(c)(2)(iii)
2 8 CFR § 214.14(c)(2)(ii)

How do I show that I am a “victim of a crime”? What is the difference between a direct and indirect victim?

The law enforcement certification should make it clear that you are the victim of a qualifying U visa crime. You should also discuss the details of the crime, if it’s not too traumatic, in your personal statement. Others who know about or witnessed the event may also write declarations describing details of the crime. Police reports, medical records, and other “systems” evidence is helpful, if you have it.

In most cases, the person who actually suffered the crime will be the U visa applicant. These applicants are called “direct” victims. However, USCIS also accepts applications from people who aren’t the direct victims of the crime themselves, but who were victimized by crimes that occurred to their close relatives. These applicants are called “indirect” victims. An indirect victim could be the close relative of a crime victim who is: (1) dead due to murder or manslaughter; or (2) incompetent or incapacitated and cannot provide information about the crime or be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.1

The “close relatives” who may qualify as indirect victims include:

  • the direct victim’s spouse;
  • the direct victim’s unmarried children under 21 years old; and
  • if the direct victim is under 21 years old, the direct victim’s parents and siblings under 18 years old.1

Although indirect victims are not required to show that they suffered the crime itself, they do need to show all of these remaining requirements:

  • they have information about that crime;
  • they were helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the criminal investigation or prosecution of that crime;
  • they suffered substantial physical or mental harm from the crime; and
  • none of the “grounds of inadmissibility” applies to them, or USCIS waives the grounds of inadmissibility.

In addition, an indirect victim will also need to submit the Form I-918, Supplement B (law enforcement certification) in his/her own name.

Note: The most common indirect victim is the undocumented parent of a child who was sexually abused, regardless of the child’s immigration status. See If my U.S. citizen child is a victim of a crime, can I (the undocumented parent) qualify for a U visa? for more information.

1 8 CFR § 214.14(a)(14)

How do I show that I suffered “substantial harm”?

One of the requirements to get a U visa is that you must show you suffered substantial physical or mental harm as a result of the crime.1 USCIS will consider several factors when deciding whether the harm was “substantial,” including any permanent or serious harm to your appearance, health, or physical or mental well-being.1 You can show this through your personal statement and through supporting evidence, such as medical reports, declarations from mental health providers, and statements from professionals or friends or family who have helped you since the crime. For example, one thing your therapist can discuss in his/her declaration is the connection between the crime and the harm you are suffering, especially if it is too hard for you to provide details in your own declaration.

You should work with your attorney and with a crime victim advocate on how to best show that you suffered substantial harm.

1 8 CFR § 214.14(b)(1)
2 INA § 101(a)(15)(U)(i)(I)

How do I show that I was helpful to law enforcement?

Since Congress created the U visa to help law enforcement as well as crime victims, you must prove that you were helpful to law enforcement or that you are willing to be helpful if needed. However, if the crime victim is under 16, a parent, guardian, or another person who can legally represent the victim (a “next friend”) can be helpful to law enforcement on the minor’s behalf.1 If you are under 16 and neither you nor anyone acting on your behalf has been or is willing to be helpful to law enforcement, then you will not be eligible for a U visa.

The main way to prove helpfulness to law enforcement is through a law enforcement certification, known as Form I-918, Supplement B, that must be signed by law enforcement and included with your U visa application.

Your lawyer or advocate will need to approach law enforcement to ask them to fill out the certification. In addition to explaining that you are the victim of a U visa-qualifying crime, law enforcement should use the form to explain how you are helpful, were helpful, or are willing to be helpful in investigating or prosecuting the crime committed against you.2

It’s important to understand that the law does not require law enforcement to sign certifications and so if you stop being helpful, or refuse to do something law enforcement asks you to do, they may refuse to fill out the certification. Without a law enforcement certification completed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will deny your case. It’s very important that you work with your victim advocate and your lawyer when talking to law enforcement. They can help make sure you are being helpful to law enforcement while still making decisions that keep you safe.

Remember, you should also explain in detail in your personal statement how you were helpful to law enforcement. If you worked with a crime victim advocate, s/he can also write a corroborating declaration to talk about your helpfulness.

For more information on who can sign a law enforcement certification, see Which government officials and agencies may be able to provide the law enforcement certification that is required?

Note: Here you can see our series of vlogs (videos) in Spanish, with English subtitles, where we discuss the certification and how to get one, among other relevant topics.

1 INA § 101(a)(15)(U)(i)(II) & (III)
2 INA § 214(p)(1)

Which government officials and agencies may be able to provide the law enforcement certification that is required?

The following officials and agencies may be able to provide the law enforcement certification (Form I-918, Supplement B) that is necessary for your U visa application:

  • federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies;
  • prosecutors;
  • judges; or
  • other authorities that are responsible for the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity, such as Child Protective Services and federal and state agencies that do workplace investigations, such as Equal Employment Opportunity and Departments of Labor.1

If you have already reported the crime to law enforcement, your attorney can request the certification from the law enforcement agency. Many law enforcement agencies know about U visas and have employees who are in charge of reviewing certification requests. Other agencies may not be familiar with U visas and may need your attorney or domestic violence advocate to explain the program to them and why they should sign the certification in your case.

The law enforcement agency can sign the certification no matter what the status of the criminal case may be. For example, even if the police never arrested a suspect in your case, they can still sign the certification based on your report. Also, even if the suspect was found not guilty at trial, law enforcement can still sign the certification for you.

1 8 CFR § 214.14(a)(2)

What can I do if law enforcement refuses to sign the certification?

The law does not require law enforcement to sign certifications and so if you stop being helpful, or refuse to do something law enforcement asks you to do, they may refuse to fill out the certification. However, if you believe that the law enforcement agency is wrongfully refusing to sign the certification, your attorney can work with other attorneys, social workers, domestic violence advocates, and other community members to educate the law enforcement agency about the U visa program. Also, many states have passed laws that require law enforcement agencies to respond to your request for certification within a certain amount of time. Some states, like California, even say that law enforcement should assume that you were helpful to them as long as you have not refused or failed to provide assistance.1 If the law enforcement agency is breaking the law by refusing to respond to your request or sign your certification, your attorney may wish to contact ASISTA a national non-profit organization, for help in teaching the law enforcement agency about the U visa.

1 See Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s Guide to State Laws on U Visa and T Visa Certifications

If my U.S. citizen child is a victim of a crime, can I (the undocumented parent) qualify for a U visa?

If you are undocumented and your U.S. citizen child was the victim of one of the qualifying U visa crimes, you (the undocumented parent) may be able to apply for a U visa as an “indirect victim.” When the crime victim is under 21 at the time the crime was committed, the victim’s parents and siblings under 18 may be indirect victims.1 For the more information on indirect victims, go to How do I show that I am a “victim of a crime”? What is the difference between a direct and indirect victim?

1 8 CFR § 214.14(a)(14)(i)

How much does it cost to apply for a U visa?

There are no fees to file a U visa application for you and your family members.1 Some of the related forms and processes do have fees but, depending on your income or financial need, those fees can be waived. For example, there are fees associated with employment authorization and the inadmissibility waiver.

You may ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to waive fees for any or all of these forms so you don’t have to pay them, but if they deny your request, they will return any forms that require a fee, and you will need to refile. For example, if you request a fee waiver for the Form I-192 (waiver of inadmissibility) and USCIS denies the fee waiver, they will return your Form I-192, and you will need to refile it. Your attorney can help you figure out whether you might qualify for a fee waiver. If you do, the attorney should help you put together the documents that you will need to submit in order to convince the government to give you a fee waiver.

1 See USCIS website – Forms

Can I apply for a U visa if I am in immigration court for deportation ("removal") proceedings?

If you already have a case in immigration court, or have one coming up because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained you, you can still apply for a U visa.1 However, immigration judges do not have the power to give you a U visa. The only thing they might agree to do is to “continue” your case until USCIS decides whether to approve your U visa application. If you are already in immigration court, it is more important than ever that you file a good, complete case with all the forms and documentation that meet all of the requirements. This is hard to do without help from an attorney with experience in U visa cases.

To avoid being deported, you will need an attorney who has experience in immigration court, not just experience with U visas. Your attorney may wish to contact ASISTA, a national non-profit organization, to get the latest strategies and arguments for U visa applicants in immigration and federal court. ASISTA can also talk to your attorney about exploring the option of filing a case in federal court to stop your deportation.

Other national organizations can be found on our National Organizations - Immigration page.

1 8 CFR § 214.14(c)(1)(i), (c)(1)(ii)

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