Have you been a victim of a crime?
Examples include being a victim of domestic violence, stalking, serious assault, or extortion.
Have you been afraid to report a problem to the police because of your immigration status?
U visas are available to victims of crime that have information about crimes and are willing to assist with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. You do not have to be afraid to seek help from the police.
Eligibility for U visas
You may be eligible for a U visa if:
- You have been a victim of a crime (see list of qualifying criminal activity below),
- You suffered physical or mental injury due to the crime,
- You have information about the crime,
- You were helpful, are helpful, or likely will be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime,
- The crime happened in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws.
Qualifying Criminal Activities
Abusive Sexual Contact
Female Genital Mutilation
Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
In addition to the above requirements, you must also be admissible to the United States, which has a specific definition for immigration, for example it includes not committing crimes, not violating immigration laws, and many other factors. If you are not admissible, you may be eligible for a waiver. Please consult a lawyer before applying for a U visa or any waiver.
A state, federal, or law enforcement agency, like a police department, district attorney’s office, judge, the Attorney General’s Office, or the Department of Children and Families, has to complete a form called a certification that says that you were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the crime. You must have an agency’s certification in order to apply for a U visa with immigration.
Massachusetts has a law, MGL 258F, that says that all agencies must have a policy for U visa certification requests and must respond to your request for a certification within 90 days with limited exceptions. For more information, see this guide for certifying agencies.
What about my family members?
Someone over the age of 21 may also apply for their spouse and children (unmarried and under the age of 21) through the U visa process.
Someone under the age of 21 may also apply for their spouse, children (unmarried and under the age of 21), parents, and unmarried siblings under age 18.
What status do I receive with U visa?
If you are granted a U visa, you will receive a four year non-immigrant visa and work authorization. You will be able to remain in the United States during this period and work. After living in the United States for three years, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residence.
Bona Fide Determinations
In June 2021, immigration started a new process, called a “bona fide determination,” for people waiting for their U visas in the US. In the new process, some individuals who are waiting for their U visa may be granted deferred action and work authorization while they wait for their U visa to be decided. You cannot apply for a bona fide determination. Immigration will review cases automatically that may be eligible. For more information see USCIS frequently asked questions.
Path to lawful permanent residence (green card)
U visa holders may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (green cards), if they meet certain requirements.
You may be eligible for a green card if:
- You have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least three years while in U visa status,
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa,
- You are not inadmissible (consult an lawyer to review admissibility),
- You show your presence in the U.S. is justified on humanitarian grounds.
Your family members may also be eligible for green cards if they received U visa status through your application.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if the person was not arrested?
The police or other investigating agency can still certify that you have information and are willing to be helpful even if no arrest is made.
What if the person was not convicted?
The district lawyer’s office, police, or other investigating agency can still certify that you have information, have been helpful, or are willing to be helpful even if there is not a prosecution.
What if my crime is not on the list?
U visas are available for the listed crimes, but also for crimes that are similar. You may be able to get a U visa certification if the certifying agency agrees that they investigated a listed crime, even if the charge was different. For example, you may be able to get a U visa based on domestic violence even though the charge may have been for assault and battery.
What if the police were not involved
A certifying agency can include the Department of Labor, Department of Children and Families, and other agencies that investigate activities that may include criminal activity, even though they are not law enforcement agencies.
What if I was previously deported from the U.S. or have had other immigration issues?
You may still be eligible for a U visa. U visa applicants must be admissible, but a waiver is available. Please consult with an immigration lawyer to review eligibility.
What if the police, or other certifying agency, do not think I was helpful or will be helpful?
If the police, or other certifying agency, do not think you are helpful, then you will not be eligible to apply for a U Visa. You need a certification from the police or other agency to apply for a U Visa.