The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is reserved for victims of crime who assist law enforcement. It is meant to protect non-citizen victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
U visa holders have legal status in the United States, receive employment authorization (work permit), and even a possible path to a green card and U.S. citizenship.
The U-Visa is a non-immigrant visa available to non-citizen victims of certain types of serious crimes, who cooperate with law enforcement and suffer physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime. Adult applicants can include their spouses and minor children in their applications, while minor victims can include their parents and minor siblings. The U Visa is valid for 4 years and provides a pathway to citizenship, meaning that U Visa holders can apply for a green card and, eventually, US citizenship.
There are four statutory eligibility requirements to qualify for the U-Visa. The individual must:
- have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity, which includes domestic violence and felonious assault;
- Possess information about the qualifying criminal activity;
- Have been helpful, is being helpful or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity;
- The criminal activity violated U.S. laws; and
- Have the relevant law enforcement agency certify that you were helpful.