U-Visas: Assisting Victims of Crime


The U visa is an immigration benefit that can be sought by victims of certain crimes who are currently assisting or have previously assisted law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a crime, or who are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.  The U visa provides eligible victims with nonimmigrant status in order to temporarily remain in the United States (U.S.) while assisting law enforcement.  If certain conditions are met, an individual with U nonimmigrant status may adjust to lawful permanent resident status.  Congress capped the number of available U visas to 10,000 per year.

Immigrants, especially women and children, can be particularly vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other abuse due to a variety of factors.  These include, but are not limited to, language barriers, separation from family and friends, lack of understanding of U.S. laws, fear of deportation, and cultural differences.  Congress recognized that victims who do not have legal status may be reluctant to help in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity for fear of removal from the United States. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (“VTVPA”) has enacted to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking or persons and other crimes while offering protection to victims of such crimes without the immediate risk of being removed from the country.  Congress also sought to encourage law enforcement officials to serve immigrant crimes victims.

If an individual believes he or she may qualify for a U visa, than that individual or his or her representative will complete the USCIS Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918), and submit it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) with all relevant documentation, including Form I-918B, the U visa law enforcement certification.  Given the complexity of U visa petitions, petitioners often work with a legal representative or victim advocate.

What Constitutes a Qualifying Crime?

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Felonious Assault
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Being Held Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other related crimes


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