U Visas, Application Information (Part 2 of 2)

Purpose of U Visa

A U Visa is designed to assist US investigators and prosecutors of certain criminal activity such as domestic violence, trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation while assisting the alien victims of these qualifying crimes. Through this Visa Aida, a 23-year-old who was brought to the United States from Kyrgyzstan to work as a sex worker may be able to acquire a non-immigrant status that will allow her to live and work freely in the United States and adjust to permanent residence later. The maximum number of aliens who may be issued U Visas each year is set by Congress at 10,000 persons.

U Visa eligibility requirements

To obtain a U Visa an applicant, in this case Aida must show that:

1.      She has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity;

2.     She possesses information about that criminal activity;

3.      She has been, is being, or is likely to be helpful to Federal, State, or local investigators or prosecutors

4.      The criminal activity violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States or in U.S. territories (including Indian reservations).

By being forced to work as a commercial sex worker Aida has been a victim of a qualifying crime. She has information because she has experienced how this commercial sex trade operation works and is likely to be of help to investigators and prosecutors here in the US in seeking to charge and convict the operators who have violated the laws of the United States.

U Visa Certification

 To qualify for a U visa, Aida must complete USCIS Form I-918 and provide supporting paperwork. Aida must also obtain a completed certification of helpfulness from a Certifying Offi­cial from a Certifying Agency (USCIS Form I-918, Supplement B) verifying that she has been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime perpetrated against her.

How do I find a Certifying Official?

The first step in finding a certifying official begins with finding a certifying agency.

1.      Certifying Agency

A Certifying Agency is a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, prosecutor, judge, or other authority, that is responsible for the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying crime or criminal activity. This definition includes agencies that have criminal investigative authority in their own area of expertise. It includes, but is not limited to, child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor.

2.      Certifying Official

A Certifying official is:

1)       The head of the certifying agency, or

2)       Any person in a supervisory role who has been specifically designated by the head of the certifying agency to issue U nonimmigrant status certifications on behalf of that agency; or

3)       A Federal, State or local judge


1.      File a completed Form I-918 making sure to check that she wants an Employment Authorization Document

2.      File Form I-918 Supplement B (completed by Certifying Official) together with supporting documents and in the same mailing as I-918.

3.      Submit any trial transcripts, court documents, police reports, orders of protection and, affidavits of other witness such as medical personnel

4.      Include a detailed personal statement setting out the substantial physical or mental suffering arising from qualifying crime (the forced commercial and sexual exploitation she suffered).

5.      File Form I-912 Request for Waiver of application fees if she is indigent

 Later after receiving a notice of action on her petition Aida may later follow-up her initial petition by filing Form I-918 Supplement A to petition for derivative U Visa status for her alien spouse, child and other qualifying family members.

If you have questions about U Visas, consult an immigration attorney who can advise you based on your unique facts.

Attorney Gary D. Goodin, for Immigration Navigator

Copyright © 2011, the Immigration Navigator

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U Visas, Application Information (Part 1 of 2)

What is a U Visa?

A U Visa is a non-immigrant visa available to non-citizens who are victims of certain qualifying criminal activity including domestic violence in the United States.They must have been helpful or are likely to be helpful to investigators or prosecutors of criminal activity. It is not enough to be a helpful witness the applicant must be the victim of certain qualifying criminal activity.

What are the benefits of U Visas?

U Visa holders are granted Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) allowing them to work legally in the United States.

For those green card holders who find themselves in removal proceedings, a U visa may allow them to remain in the United States. This potential benefit is a very important one that may be overlooked.

U Visas are normally issued for four years. The spouse (at the time of application) and children of the principal applicant (even unborn at the time of application) may be eligible for derivative U visa status.

Who qualifies for a U visa?

Any non-citizen of the United States – Green card holders, those with non-immigrant status, in or out of status, and undocumented persons may apply for a U Visa provided they are victims of qualifying criminal activity and meet other qualifying requirements. The applicant need not be present in the United States at the time he or she applies. But the non-citizen must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of qualifying criminal activity.

What is qualifying criminal activity?

  1. rape;
  2. torture;
  3. trafficking;
  4. incest;
  5. domestic violence;
  6. sexual assault;
  7. abusive sexual contact;
  8. prostitution;
  9. sexual exploitation;

10.  female genital mutilation;

11.  being held hostage;

12.  peonage;

13.  involuntary servitude;

14.  slave trade; kidnapping;

15.  abduction;

16.  unlawful criminal restraint;

17.  false imprisonment;

18.  blackmail;

19.  extortion;

20.  manslaughter;

21.  murder;

22.  felonious assault;

23.  witness tampering;

24.  obstruction of justice;

25.  perjury;

26.  attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes, or

27.  any similar criminal activity.

There is no requirement that the criminal activity of which the non-citizen is a victim be the same one as that being investigated by law enforcement. In the midst of an investigation into embezzlement (a non-qualifying criminal activity), for example, the non-citizen witness may become the victim of threats intended to force her not to cooperate with investigators – obstruction of justice (a qualifying criminal activity).

What should I do if I suspect I qualify for a U Visa?

Any non-citizen who suspects that he qualifies for a U visa should consult an Immigration Attorney for legal advice based on his specific circumstances.

A non-citizen  with a pending removal proceeding who suspects that she qualifies for a U visa based on being a victim of qualifying criminal activity should bring this information to her immigration attorney at once.

U Visas, Application Information (Part 2 of 2) will deal with the Certification Requirement and the application procedure for a U-Visa.

Attorney Gary Goodin, for Immigration Navigator ™

Copyright © 2011, the Immigration Navigator

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One important document that Marriage visa and K visa holders must read

One of the most shocking things to happen to potential immigrants to the United States is for them to suffer abuse or domestic violence at the hand of their US Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse. Many people come to the United States for a better life but wind up living a nightmare of silent abuse and domestic violence because they “do not understand the system” and lack legal representation.

One immigrant victim of spousal abuse was so embarrassed she could not mention her abuse to family and friends until things took a dramatic turn for the worst. Her U.S. Citizen spouse, who would not speak to her for weeks at a time, became violent and threatened to kill her.

The most important thing that immigrants who are victim of domestic violence need to know is that they do not have to live with an abusive spouse to remain legally in the United States. They should consult an immigration attorney as soon as possible. For those who cannot afford an attorney, free or law cost legal counsel is available

The immigration law protect victims of domestic abuse. The burden however is on the victim to prove the abuse (mental or physical) using documents such as medical records, testimony by social workers, the affidavits from persons with personal knowledge of the abuse and police reports. 

The USCIS recently issued a pamphlet titled “Information on the Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States and Facts about Immigrating on a Marriage-Based Visa.” The brochure is designed to tell holders of marriage visas and k visas about their legal rights in the United States and where they can get help. It also informs them about US immigration options that are available without the sponsorship of an abusive spouse.

Oftentimes trying to leave an abuser may provoke a violent reaction. For this reason it, is normally highly recommended that abuse victims consult an immigration attorney and a domestic violence counselor. The two will collaborate to devise a plan to make sure the applicant is not harmed or killed by her abuser. The immigration attorney will also help by gathering supporting evidence for a self-petition, interviewing the abuse victim and helping with preparation of the applicant’s declaration.

Read the USCIS brochure here. 




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