U-1 Visas for Crime Victims

When a foreign national becomes a crime victim, she or he may qualify for a U-1 visa. All crimes do not qualify a person to apply for a U-1 visa. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) regulation defines the qualifying crimes making a person eligible for U-1 status. A foreign national may apply for U-1 status while in the U.S. or a U-1 visa after departing America.

When applying for U-1 status, a foreign national must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The applicant suffered substantial physical or mental abuse caused by the crime,
  2. The applicant knows facts about the crime and assisted or will assist in investigation or prosecuting the perpetrator,
  3. A certifying agency agrees that the applicant assisted, is helping, or will assist with the investigation or prosecution, and
  4. The qualifying crime happened in the U.S. or violated federal law authorizing extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Inadmissibility and Applying for a U-1 Visa

Immigration and Nationality Act § 212(a) lists the many reasons why USCIS may deny an application. If a U-1 applicant’s history includes an event causing inadmissibility, the applicant may apply for a waiver (I-192 Form) and request permission to enter as a nonimmigrant. USCIS may not waive inadmissibility for certain INA § 212(a) offenses.  

Applying for U-1 Status with Pending Removal Proceedings or a Final Removal Order

Unlike other applications filed in immigration court, only USCIS may decide an I-918 petition for U-1 status. If an immigration court issued a final removal order, a foreign national may still apply for U-1 status. A U-1 applicant may request a stay of removal to prevent deportation while USCIS reviews the I-918 petition.   

After USCIS approves an I-918 petition, a beneficiary may request that the Board of Immigration Appeals or an immigration court reopen and terminate a final removal order.

What Happens After USCIS Approves an I-918 Petition?

The heading from the I-918 Petition’s first page.

For a petitioner located in America, USCIS will send an approval notice with an I-94 Form. An I-94 Form will provide the validity period for U-1 status. For a petitioner living outside America, USCIS will notify a U.S. embassy or consulate about the petition’s approval. The beneficiary may apply for a U-1 visa at the embassy or consulate (“consular processing”).   

May a U-1 Beneficiary’s Family Receive U Status or a U Visa?

USCIS considers the principal U-1 beneficiary’s age to determine a family member’s eligibility. For a beneficiary (age 21 or older), a spouse or children qualify as family members.  For a beneficiary under age 21, regulation considers a spouse, children, parents, or unmarried sisters and brothers (under age 18) as family members.

At the beginning stage, an applicant may file a petition for qualifying family members (“derivatives”) when filing the initial I-918 petition. However, a U-1 beneficiary may also petition for family members after USCIS approves the petition. If a qualifying family member’s past includes an act causing inadmissibility, then the family member may apply for a waiver. If granted derivative U status, the family member will become eligible to work. 

How Does the Victim’s Death or Incapacity Impact the Family’s Immigration?   

If murder or manslaughter causes the victim’s death, USCIS will treat the surviving spouse and children (under age 21) as victims eligible for U status.  For a victim under age 21, USCIS will consider the victim’s parents and unmarried siblings (under age 18) as victims for U visa purposes. Surviving family members also become eligible for U status if a crime causes the direct victim’s incompetence or incapacity.

May a U-1 Beneficiary or Qualifying Family Member Apply for a Green Card?

A U-1 beneficiary may apply for permanent resident status after satisfying the continuous presence requirement. Family members may pursue permanent resident status through status adjustment (I-485 Form) or consular processing. Unlike other green card applicants, different rules apply when a U-1 beneficiary files an I-485 Form.