What is U visa status?
U visa status (also known as U nonimmigrant status) was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. It is designed to provide lawful status to noncitizen crime victims who have assisted, are assisting, or are willing to assist the authorities in investigating or prosecuting crimes that were committed against them.* The main purpose of the U visa is to encourage undocumented crime victims to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute crimes without fear of being deported.
The U visa status may be available to victims of domestic violence crimes, stalking, sexual assault or victims of certain other crimes (which can be crimes that have nothing to do with domestic abuse).
If you are a noncitizen victim of crime, you must meet ALL of these requirements:
- you have a certification from law enforcement or another certifying agency that you "have been helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution" of one of the categories of crimes listed in the U visa statute;
- you can show that you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the crime certified;
- you can show that you have information regarding the criminal activity, usually explained in the certification; and
- the criminal activity violated U.S. law; or occurred in the U.S. (including Indian [Native American] country and military installations) or the territories and possessions of the U.S., also usually explained in the certification.
U visa applicants also must show that they are "admissible" or that they qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility if they are not.** Note: See more information about eligibility requirements under Am I eligible for U visa status? What crimes could qualify me?
Immigration laws are complicated and the pages below will help give you some basic information about U visa status. WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you consult with an immigration lawyer familiar with U visas before applying to see if you qualify for this or other forms of immigration relief. Please see the national organizations listed on our Immigration/International page. For general legal services organizations, not immigration-specific, and referral services to private attorneys, go to our Finding a Lawyer page. Remember to ask the lawyer you are considering working with whether s/he has filed for U visas or has been trained on how to file for U visas, since this may be something immigration lawyers or other lawyers are not normally trained to do. For assistance, your attorney can contact ASISTA.
Note: Here you can see our series of vlogs (videos) in Spanish, with English subtitles, where we discuss what is a U visa, what are the requirements to get a U visa and what crimes qualify someone to get a U visa, among other related topics.
* Pub. L. No. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1464 (2000) (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1518 (2000))
** USCIS website - Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status