Here are some common general questions we receive about the U-Visa Application Process. For more in-depth and specific information about obtaining a U-Visa, please see our other blog posts on the U-Visa or contact us to schedule a consultation or assessment.
What is a U-Visa?
U-visas are intended for immigrants without immigration status or temporary immigration status who meet the following four requirements:
- Are a victim of a qualifying crime;
- Have suffered physically and/or mentally because of the criminal activity;
- Have information about criminal activity, and will participate or have participated in the investigation and prosecution of the crime at hand; and
- The crime occurred in the United States.
What are the application fees?
To apply for the U-Visa, the application procedure is free of charge.
What is the application process for a U-Visa?
To learn more about the application process of the U-Visa, please read our blog post here.
What are the qualifying crimes for a U-Visa?
The Department of Homeland Security lists the following crimes as qualifying crimes.
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- *Other related crimes
If the crime of which I am a victim is not explicitly listed as a qualifying crime, can I still be eligible?
Yes, you may still be eligible under “Other Related Crimes”. Please read our blog post on the Basics of a U-Visa to learn more.
Is there a statute of limitations or time limit within which I must apply for a U-Visa?
No, there is no statute of limitations. You can apply at any time but in some situations, we recommend applying sooner rather than later, especially in regard to obtaining evidence.
How long does a U-Visa take to be approved?
For the U-Visa to get processed and approved, it can take from 12 to 18 months, or longer, as there are limited U-Visas available and a current backlog. This does not include the time it will take to obtain the U-Visa Certification, which must first be obtained from law enforcement, before submitting the U-Visa application to USCIS. The processing and approval times vary for every applicant and case and depend on visa availability and other factors.
How long does a U-Visa last?
A U-Visa is valid for a maximum of four years. After those 4 years, you can request an extension from USCIS by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You can also apply for permanent residency (by applying for a Green Card) 3 years into holding your U-Visa and having three years of physical presence in the U.S. under U-Visa status.
What is a U-Visa Certification?
A U-Visa certification states that the person applying for a U-Visa was a victim of a qualifying crime, possessed information relating to the crime, and was helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of that crime. You must obtain the certification before you can submit the U-Visa application to USCIS. Acquiring the certificate does not guarantee that you will get a U-Visa.
How do I get a U-Visa Certification?
You must get a U-Visa Certification from a law enforcement agency. Only they can complete the form for a victim who is petitioning USCIS for a U-Visa because it is a piece of evidence to confirm to USCIS that a qualifying crime has occurred and that you were helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
Who can complete the U-Visa Certification for me?
Authorities who are responsible for the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the qualifying criminal activities can complete the U-Visa Certification. This can include:
- Federal, State, and Local law enforcement agencies;
- Federal, State, and Local prosecutors’ offices;
- Federal, State and Local Judges;
- Federal, State, and Local Family Protective Services;
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
- Federal and State Departments of Labor; and
- Other investigative agencies.
Can I apply for a U-Visa if I do not have a police report?
Having a police report is important because it shows helpfulness and cooperation with law enforcement. However, if you did not file a police report, you can issue a report now and still help law enforcement. You can offer help to law enforcement in other ways, like testifying as a witness.
What if I did not report the crime, can I still be eligible for a U-Visa?
Reporting the crime and having a police report shows your cooperation and helpfulness with law enforcement. However, you can be helpful in other ways to law enforcement, such as testifying as a witness and being willing to answer any questions the police or the District Attorney’s office may have. You can report the crime now and also demonstrate other evidence of being helpful to law enforcement.
Can I include family members in my U-Visa Application?
Yes, if you are older than 21, your application can include all children who are younger than 21 at the time of the application and your legal spouse. If you are under 21 years of age, you may petition on behalf of your legal spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under age 18.
Can I get a work permit with a U-Visa?
U-Visa applicants will receive a work permit automatically upon the approval of the U-Visa.
Can my spouse get a work permit?
They will not automatically get a work permit but will need to apply for one by filling out the USCIS form I-765.
Can I apply for a Green Card while holding U-Visa status?
Yes, after having a U-Visa for 3 years, you are eligible to apply for a Green Card.
Can I be an undocumented immigrant and apply for the U-Visa?
Yes, a U-Visa is specifically for immigrants who are victims of criminal activity. The U-Visa encourages people to report criminal activity without fear of deportation. Additionally, most crimes do not prohibit someone from receiving a U-Visa. There are still other types of criminal records that would make a person inadmissible which would require them to file Form I-192.
Can I travel while I have a U-Visa?
There are some risks associated with traveling on a U-Visa because a U-Visa is a status in the U.S. and NOT a visa. If you depart the U.S., you will need to apply for a U-Visa at a consulate, and have it approved before you can return to the U.S. However, when you apply for a Green Card, or adjustment of status, after having the U-Visa status for three years, you can also apply for a travel permit. You can leave the U.S. with this travel permit, while your Green Card application is pending, and be able to return to the U.S. We highly recommend speaking with an immigration attorney if you are interested in traveling.