A U Visa is a way to get a work permit and then eventually a “green card” if an undocumented person has been a victim of certain crimes and that person was helpful to the police or other law enforcement agency.
The police or the district attorney or other law enforcement agency have to be willing to sign a form saying that the person was helpful and never refused to help them. A person also has to show that they suffered emotionally or physically because of the crime.
Here is the list of crimes that qualify for a potential U Visa – most are violent crimes:
Abusive Sexual Contact
Female Genital Mutilation
Fraud in Foreign Labor
Obstruction of Justice
Other Related Crimes – this 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. Even if the crime a potential U Visa applicant was a victim of isn’t listed, it still might count if it is a similar crime.
What does it mean for me to have helped the police or law enforcement?
It can mean that you told the police or other law enforcement what happened to you and said that you were willing to answer more questions or go to court to testify if they asked you. If you were under 16 when the crime was being investigated, you are also eligible if your parents helped on your behalf. If the person who committed the crime was arrested and there was a criminal case against that person, it can also mean going to court and testifying or at least telling the district attorney or the police that you are willing to go to court and testify.
The important thing is that you (or your parents) didn’t tell the police or district attorney that you don’t want to help. Before you can apply for a U Visa, the police or the district attorney or other law enforcement agency (like CPS) has to sign a form saying that you helped them. If they won’t sign that form, you won’t be able to apply. Your attorney can ask the specific law enforcement agency to sign the form.
What else do I have to show in order to be approved?
You have to show that you suffered emotionally or physically because of the crime. You can show this through a letter that your attorney will help you write and if you are seeing a counselor or a therapist, they can also write a letter to help. If you were hurt physically and had to go to the hospital, the hospital records or a letter from your doctor can help.
If you have been convicted of committing a crime yourself, you will have to show immigration that you are sorry for breaking the law and are not going to commit any more crimes.
How long will it take until I get my work permit?
Once you submit your application, it may take some time to get your first work permit. If your work permit expires before your U Visa is approved, you should be able to renew it.
How long will it take until I get a green card?
You become eligible for a green card three years after your U visa is approved. However, since the U visa is only valid for 4 years, it is very important to apply for your green card before your U visa expires!
Can I include my family members in the case?
If you are under 21 when you apply for a U Visa, you can also apply for your parents and your siblings who are under 18. If you are married or have children, you can also include your spouse and your children if they weren’t born in the U.S. You can’t apply for the person who committed the crime against you even if that person is your family member.
How can I learn more about U Visas?
The Immigration Center for Women and Children made a video about U Visas and the application process (the video is in Spanish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_G9v98dWpI.
For more information, look at the USCIS webpage.
If you don’t live in San Francisco, or a person over 21 years old, and want to apply for a U Visa, click here for more resources.