Legal Information: Federal


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January 30, 2018

In the list of eligibility requirements, what does “substantial physical or mental abuse” mean?

One of the basic requirements to obtain U visa status is that you have suffered "substantial physical or mental abuse" as a result of certain crimes.*  “Physical or mental abuse” means injury or harm to your body, or harm to your emotional or psychological well-being.** 

In addition, whether the abuse you suffered is “substantial” depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • the nature of the injury you suffered;
  • the severity of the abuser’s conduct;
  • the severity of the harm you suffered;
  • for how long you suffered the harm; and
  • the extent to which there is permanent or serious harm to your appearance, health, or physical or mental health, including if a pre-existing condition was made worse.

No single factor is required to show that the harm you suffered was substantial.  Also, a series of acts taken together may be considered substantial physical or mental abuse, even when each act by itself would not be considered substantial.***  Your statement (declaration) will be key in showing this requirement and, if the harm is not physical, a statement from a victim advocate can be very helpful.  (If you are a victim advocate, please contact our Email Hotline for more information on how to best prepare such a statement.) 

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