What is a U Visa: Who Qualifies and How It Can Protect You And Your Family


The U Visa is a very sensitive area of immigration law that was created to help and protect all victims of qualifying crimes, and their families. It is for those who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. It is similar, but not the same as a T Visa which was created in 2oo0 under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

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.

Once the visa is approved it is valid for 4 years with possible extension. After 3 years, with continuous residence in US, a U Visa holder can file for his or her green card. A U Visa can be granted to any immigrant even if he/she has prior immigration or criminal violations in all but the most extreme circumstances.

  1. The U Visa nonimmigrant status was created by our government with violence against immigrant women in mind, but U Visa status extends to all victims of qualifying crimes regardless of gender
  2. The U Visa is meant to encourage participation of immigrant victims in the prosecution of offenders
  3. It is meant to take away the fear of adverse immigration consequences that deter many aliens from reporting offenses
  4. It makes undocumented immigrants legal if they meet criteria listed below


  • Be the direct or indirect victim of a qualifying crime (list of qualifying crimes below)
  • Crime must have occurred in US
  • Crime must be in violation of US law
  • Crime could have taken place many years ago – there is no statute of limitations
  • Victim must possess information regarding crime
  • Victim has been helpful to local, state or federal law enforcement authorities. This requirement includes certification by law enforcement.
  • Victim suffered substantial physical or emotional harm

ALSO  certain qualifying family members may receive U Visa status:

  • If the victim is under 21: his or her spouse, children, parents, unmarried siblings under 18
  • If victim is over 21: spouse and children


Important: The crimes DO NOT require conviction, apprehension of criminals, or prosecution.

  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
  15. Kidnapping
  16. Abduction
  17. Unlawful criminal restraint
  18. False imprisonment
  19. Blackmail
  20. Extortion
  21. Manslaughter
  22. Murder
  23. Felonious assault
  24. Witness tampering
  25. Obstruction of justice
  26. Perjury
  27. Stalking
  28. Or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes

If you, someone you know, or a member or your family, are the victims of a crime on US soil, you need to talk about it with a top immigration lawyer who understands how to handle these matters, as it may result in a work permit and then a green card.


Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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