Once you have determined that you might be eligible for a U visa or U status in the U.S. – as described in Nolo’s article, “U Visas for Crime Victims Assisting Law Enforcement: Who Is Eligible” -- the next step is to prepare and submit an application. Applying for a U visa involves the following steps:
- Prepare USCIS Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.
- Have a qualifying agency provide a certification of your helpfulness to accompany this I-918 petition.
- Gather evidence to substantiate your eligibility and claims of substantial injury.
- If you have derivative family members who wish to work in the U.S., have each of them prepare Form I-765 for a work permit (with fee).
- Submit your petition and supporting documents to USCIS, and
- Attend an interview at a USCIS office or your local U.S. consulate, if required.
We’ll explain each of these steps below.
Preparing USCIS Form I-918
For line-by-line instructions, see Nolo’s article, “Filling Out Form I-918 Petition for a U Visa.”
Obtaining Certification of Helpfulness From Qualifying Agency
As part of your application for a U visa, you will need to have a judge, police officer, prosecutor or other law enforcement official fill out a “certification of helpfulness” on your behalf. This is done on USCIS Form I-918 Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification.
For detailed information on how to obtain this, see “What's Needed for a U Visa Certification of Helpfulness” and “How to Get Law Enforcement to Help You Obtain a U Visa.”
Gathering Evidence to Substantiate Your Eligibility and Claim of Injury
Filling out the required forms will not be enough, by itself, to qualify you for a U visa. You will also need to prepare or gather various documents to support your claim, such as:
- Personal narrative statement, describing how you are a victim of criminal activity and the circumstances surrounding the crime.
- Evidence that you are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity. This could include, for example:
- trial transcripts
- newspaper articles
- police reports
- affidavits of witnesses or officials who assisted you, and
- orders of protection (restraining orders).
- Evidence that you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse. This could include, for example:
- copies of your medical records
- affidavits from case or social workers, medical personnel, and police
- photographs of injuries, and
- affidavits from people who have personal knowledge of the criminal activity.
An attorney can help you gather or prepare these documents, but you will still need to play a role in considering what the best sources might be, and in talking to friends, doctors, and others who can help.
Preparing Form I-765 for Work Permit for Derivative Family in U.S.
The principal petitioner for a U visa or U status does not need to worry about applying for a work permit (EAD). If the I-918 is approved, he or she will be sent an EAD automatically.
Any derivative family members who want to work must, however, separately submit a Form I-765 to USCIS , with accompanying fee (or fee waiver request). This can either be sent with the I-918 petition or the derivative family members can wait and apply for their work permit after the I-918 petition has been approved.
This form is fairly short and self-explanatory. For Question 16, the applicant’s eligibility category, derivative family members would fill in “(a)(20).”
Submitting Petition and Documents to USCIS
After you have completed the application, make a copy for your files. Then send the packet of forms and documents to the USCIS address listed on the I-918 page of its website. As of 2014, this was at the USCIS Vermont Service Center. There is no fee for filing a primary U visa petition.
Attending Interview at USCIS or Consular Office
If you are applying from within the U.S., chances are you will not be required to attend an interview at a local USCIS office. (This is why it is important to provide a strong statement with your I-918 applications.)
However, it’s possible that you may be required to attend an in-person interview, either at a local USCIS office or, if you (or your family members) are applying from overseas, at the U.S embassy or consulate in your home country.
The purpose of the interview will be for U.S. officials to review your file and talk with you personally about your eligibility for a U visa or your relationship with the principal applicant (if you are a family member applying for derivative status) and to make sure you are not inadmissible to the United States. If all goes well, you will be approved for a U visa (from overseas) or U status (within the U.S.) at that time.