How to Apply for Nonimmigrant U Visa or Status

How foreign nationals who are the victims of a crime that violates U.S. law can apply for a U visa to allow them to stay long enough to help U.S. law enforcement with the investigation and prosecution.

By , Attorney · Temple University Beasley School of Law

If you are a foreign national who became a victim of crime in the United States, and because you are assisting or cooperating with U.S. law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting the crime, you might be eligible for a U visa or U status in the U.S. (as described in U Visas for Crime Victims Assisting Law Enforcement: Who Is Eligible). If so, the next step is to prepare and submit an application. We'll discuss how to do that here, and provide outlines of the steps and checklists of the needed documents.

Overview of Steps in Applying for a U Visa

Applying for a U visa involves the following steps:

  • Prepare USCIS Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.
  • Include Form I-918, Supplement A if also applying for derivative status for a qualifying family member, and make sure they sign it.
  • Have a qualifying agency provide a certification of your helpfulness to accompany this I-918 petition, on Form I-918B.
  • 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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and
  • Attend an interview at a USCIS office or your local U.S. consulate, if required.

We'll explain each of these steps next.

Preparing USCIS Form I-918

You can download Form I-918 and its supplements, and find detailed instructions on the I-918 page of the USCIS website ( For line-by-line instructions, see Filling Out Form I-918 Petition for a U Visa.

Obtaining Certification of Helpfulness From Qualifying Agency

One of the most challenging parts of applying for a U visa is to get the head of a law enforcement agency or judge in the United States to fill out a "certification of helpfulness" on your behalf. This is done on USCIS Form I-918 Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. It affirms that you have reliable information that will assist in investigating or prosecuting the case, and that you are cooperating with providing that information to the relevant law enforcement agency.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to convince law enforcement to provide this. For detailed information, see What's Needed for a U Visa Certification of Helpfulness.

Gathering Evidence to Substantiate Your U Visa 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. You can use this statement to show that you were not at fault in the criminal activity and to supply any information that proves that you were helpful (if you called law enforcement authorities to report the crime, for example) or the extent of your resulting injuries.
  • 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 (TROs or 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.
  • Evidence that you have helpful information about the crime. Form I-918, Supplement B should be sufficient for this, but if you have any further information about how you are being helpful to authorities in providing information about the crime, do submit it.
  • Evidence that the crime violated U.S. laws. Again, Form I-918, Supplement B should cover this, but if you have any additional information about the crime, especially if it occurred outside of the United States (but violated U.S. federal law), you should provide this evidence.
  • Request for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, if applicable. To ask for a waiver (legal forgiveness of your or a derivative family member's inadmissibility to the U.S.), submit USCIS Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant. You are not required submit the usual fee.
  • Information to prove relationship of derivative family members. Provide documentation to prove that your family member qualifies for derivative U status (for example, birth or marriage certificates). Make sure that any foreign language documents are accompanied by a full English translation, which is certified as complete and accurate by a translator competent to translate from the foreign language into English.

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 United States

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, they will be sent an EAD automatically.

Any derivative family members who want to work must, however, separately submit a Form I-765 to USCIS. As of 2024, no fee will be charged for this. The I-765 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. There is no fee for filing a primary U visa petition.

Attending Interview at USCIS or Consular Office

You might 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. If you are denied, however, and you have no other lawful status in the U.S., you could be placed into removal (deportation) proceedings and have to defend yourself in immigration court.

Getting Legal Help

If all of this still seems overwhelming (as it easily can), it might be time to hire an experienced immigration attorney to help analyze your eligibility and prepare the paperwork and any arguments to USCIS.

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