U Nonimmigrant Status

U nonimmigrant status allows victims of certain crimes to stay in the United States if they cooperate with the police in any criminal investigation and prosecution. Fortunately, when you apply for U nonimmigrant status you can ask Immigration to waive problems that prevent most people from getting lawful status. You can also include certain family members in your U nonimmigrant status application. However, once you have U nonimmigrant status, you must wait an additional three years before applying for lawful permanent residency, or a green card.

Background Image: Shawl, Ecuador

Published: 10-4-2019

Immigration law is always changing. We will do our best to keep our website as up-to-date as possible, but the latest information might be more readily available at USCIS.gov. These pages were written to help you better understand your legal options, however, none of the information published by Catholic Charities Milwaukee should be considered legal advice. If you plan to open your own immigration case, hire an immigration attorney to consult you personally.

Basic Requirements

To qualify for U nonimmigrant status, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. You must be a victim of a crime that falls within Immigration’s list of qualifying crimes;  
  2. You must have information about the crime;
  3. You must have suffered substantial harm as the result of being the victim of the crime. The harm can be emotional or physical;
  4. You must cooperate with law enforcement and cannot deny any reasonable request to help them in a criminal investigation or prosecution; and
  5. Someone from law enforcement must sign a certificate that says you have been, will be, or are currently helping in the criminal investigation and/or prosecution. 

Even if you meet the requirements listed above, you do not have an automatic right to U nonimmigrant status. It is discretionary. This means that Immigration does not have to give you U nonimmigrant status if they don’t want to. You must convince them that you deserve it.

Qualifying Crimes

In the following list, we try to use the labels for crimes that could be committed anywhere in the United States. This is challenging because the names and qualifications of certain crimes vary depending on who defines them. For example, our list includes “felonious assault”, but Wisconsin law does not use those exact terms. Instead, Wisconsin criminal law uses the word “battery” to describe “assault”, which are both basically the same crime. In fact, some Wisconsin crimes do not appear in this list while some crimes in the list do not appear in Wisconsin criminal law. Therefore, when you review this list, think about what kinds of crime may qualify as “similar activity”. A well-trained lawyer can help you understand the legal terms in your case.

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes*†
  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes*†

*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.

Victim Definitions

Immigration Terms for U Nonimmigrant Status

Direct Victims

The direct victim is the person who is harmed by the crime.

Indirect Victims

There are two types of indirect victims. First we must consider certain types of crimes that do not directly target an individual. For example, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and perjury are crimes that do not intend harm against a specific person. These crimes target larger systems, but that does not mean that it won’t harm other people. In these cases, people who are affected by the crime are called indirect victims and they may qualify for U nonimmigrant status.

Another type of indirect victim is someone affected by a crime, but who cannot be expected to help the investigation. For example, a child who is a sexual assault victim may too young or traumatized to assist law enforcement. A victim who is incapacitated or has significant cognitive problems may also be unable to help in a criminal investigation. Also, victims of manslaughter or homicide cannot help, but their family members may be important to an investigation. As a result, sometimes spouses, legal guardians, parents, children, siblings, or other family members may qualify for U nonimmigrant status as an indirect victim.

Do not try to figure out our on your own if you are an indirect victim. You will need the help of a trained immigration attorney to determine whether or not you qualify.

Bystander

Bystanders are the least common types of victim, and Immigration considers them on a case by case basis. Immigration’s example of a bystander victim is a pregnant woman who witnessed a horrific homicide and consequently suffers a miscarriage.

Again, defining who is, and who is not, a victim is very complicated. Please rely on a good immigration attorney to help you with your case.

Substantial Harm

To qualify for U nonimmigrant status, you must have suffered “substantial harm” as a victim of a crime. Immigration considers substantial harm on a case by case basis. Meaning, there is no straightforward list of rules that characterize it. However, the aspects of the crime that Immigration may consider include:

  1. The severity of the perpetrator’s conduct. This looks at how outrageous the criminal’s behavior is. The criminal may or may not have harmed you as much as they intended to harm you, but if their behavior is shocking, the harm could be considered substantial;
  2. The severity of the harm suffered;
  3. How long the harm affects the victim; and
  4. The extent to which there is permanent or serious harm to the appearance, health, or physical or mental soundness of the victim.

Again, there is no one characteristic that categorizes harm as substantial. For example, some people might have a pre-existing physical or mental condition which would make them more vulnerable. Therefore, this would make the harm more substantial. In this case, Immigration will think about whether or not these pre-existing conditions were made worse by the crime.

Helping an Investigation

What Kind of Information Must I Have?

The purpose of U nonimmigrant status is to help law enforcement investigate crime. That means Immigration wants to make sure you have useful information. They want concrete facts, but that does not mean that you have to know everything about a crime. For example, several of Catholic Charities’ clients are parents of children who were murdered. The parents may not know anything about the person who committed the crime. But they could tell law enforcement about who their child’s friends were and if they thought their children were involved in any gang activity.

What Does it Mean to be Helpful?

Ultimately, you may not refuse any reasonable requests made by law enforcement while they detect, investigate, or prosecute a crime. They may ask you to:

  • give a statement; 
  • identify the person who committed the crime; and/or
  • testify at a criminal prosecution.

The definition of a reasonable request can be complicated to describe. Once again, Immigration considers this on a case by case basis. An example of an unreasonable request may be that you have moved far away and law enforcement now wants you to travel back to testify, which would force you to miss work and pay for significant travel expenses. Or, perhaps the person who committed the crime threatened to harm you if you testify. Work with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you with these issues before they become a problem.

EXCEPTIONS

If the victim is under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or friend may assist law enforcement on behalf of the individual.

What Does it Mean to Cooperate?

Cooperating simply means that you do what law enforcement asks you to do. Many different people may be involved, including police officers, district attorneys, and social workers. Your involvement can seem overwhelming. Ask if you can work with a victim advocate who can help you through the process.

Application Process

Certificate Signed by Law Enforcement

You will show Immigration that you are helping an investigation by asking law enforcement to sign off on a certificate that you have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful in the future. This certificate is valid for only six months. Immigration MUST receive your application before the certificate is six months old. If it was signed six months and one day before Immigration receives your application, they will not approve it.

Not anyone can sign off on the certificate, or Form I-918B, but possible authorities may include:

  • a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency;
  • a prosecutor;
  • a judge; or
  • another authority that has the responsibility for the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying crime or criminal activity. 

Examples of people who can investigate may be children’s protective service units, workers from the Department of Labor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In some counties, it is easier to approach a district attorney, while in others it is easier to ask the police department. An immigration attorney who has experience in preparing applications for U nonimmigrant status can be indispensable because they will know which law enforcement authority is the easiest to work with.

COOPERATE WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT

If you stop being helpful, or if you deny a reasonable request, then the law enforcement agency can write to Immigration and withdraw their certificate. If this happens, Immigration will deny your application. Make sure you cooperate with reasonable requests from the police. Respond to requests in a timely manner and work with a trained immigration attorney to work through your U nonimmigrant application.

Supporting Evidence

After you have Form I-918B signed, you need to gather supporting evidence. You will need to collect the following documents for you and for each of your derivatives:

  • Valid passport(s) from your home country;
  • A copy of your birth certificate(s);
  • A copy of any police report related to the crime;
  • Evidence of any reasons that Immigration will not grant you U nonimmigrant status. For example, if you have a criminal history or immigration violations, get copies of all related documentation. This is also true for each of your derivatives. Having a good immigration attorney will be helpful during this step because you can have the records sent to your lawyer; and
  • Anything that proves you are a good person. For example, you will want to include evidence of steady employment, federal income taxes, good school reports for your children, ties to your community, volunteer activities, as well as letters that describe your character from family, friends, and community leaders.

Civil Documents by Country

The U.S. Department of State provides a list of acceptable documents on their website for each country that has a relationship with the United States. For example, if you are looking for what documents you need to prove a marriage, start by selecting your country and then scroll until you see the marriage certificate section. There you will find the documentation you need to give U.S. Immigration that is specific to your country. This resource can also be helpful if you need to find out how to get a copy of a divorce, birth, adoption, or death certificate from your home country.

Affidavit

You will also need to provide a detailed affidavit about what happened. This is a statement you will write under oath. It is important to write a strong affidavit because the official who decides whether or not to approve your application will never meet you in person. Try to paint a clear picture that describes each aspect of your U nonimmigrant status application. Include how being a victim has changed you. Talk about how it impacts your daily life and your relationships with others. But most importantly, give concrete examples rather than general statements. For example, if you are a victim of an assault and now you have nightmares about it, describe your nightmares. Be specific about what happens in your nightmares, how often you get them, and if it’s the same nightmare every time.

This may be a very painful process, but it is important to your case. If you are traumatized, you should consider talking to a therapist. Catholic Charities Milwaukee has trained mental health professionals to help our clients. Your lawyer may be able to refer you to helpful and affordable services. 

Which Family Members Can I Include?

U nonimmigrant petitions allow you to include certain family members on your application. These family members are called derivatives because they derive, or receive, their immigration benefit through you. Qualifying family members depend on how old you are when you file the U nonimmigrant status application. It does not matter how old you are when the crime occurs. 

  • If you are under 21 years of age on the day Immigration receives your application, then you can include your:
    • spouse;
    • children;
    • parents; and
    • unmarried siblings under age 18.
  • If you are 21 years old or older, you can include your spouse and children.

There are some important things to keep in mind if you include derivatives on your U nonimmigrant status application. First, the relationship must exist on the day that you apply. For example, if you get married after you apply, it is too late to include your spouse in your U nonimmigrant status. Again, the relationship or union must exist the day you apply. You can include your spouse years later when you apply for a green card, but once you submit your U nonimmigrant status application, it is too late to change it.

Second, your siblings and children must remain unmarried until the U nonimmigrant status is granted. If they marry beforehand, they automatically drop out of your application. Immigration will treat it as though they were never included in your application.  

Third, once Immigration receives your application, you do not have to worry about you or your siblings aging out of the process. For example, if you turn 21 while your application is pending, it will not disqualify your parents or siblings as derivatives. Your age freezes on the day Immigration receives your petition.  

Fourth, if your family members need to ask Immigration to waive anything from their record, they must apply for those waivers separately. It will be part of the group package that you send in, but each relative must add individual applications for waivers they need. This includes each family member writing a detailed statement and showing Immigration that they deserve to get the waiver. An experienced immigration attorney can help you make sure you have included everything you need in your application.

Seek the Help of a Good Lawyer

We Can't Stress This Enough

These pages are intended to help you understand what you are looking for – not to help you complete any of these applications alone. Immigration processes are detailed and complicated, and we urge you to rely on a well-trained lawyer for help. A good immigration attorney will keep up with the latest rules and will make sure your application follows them.

Frequently Asked Questions

U Nonimmigrant Status FAQ

No, there is no time limitation.

There is no fee to apply for U nonimmigrant status, however, there is a fee for waivers if you need any. As of July 2019, the waiver fee costs $595.00, but you can get a fee waiver if you are low-income. Please check USCIS.gov’s fee pages for the latest information.

It does not matter if no one is charged or if there is no trial. Sometimes the criminal will have fled the area and other times law enforcement might not think that they can prove their case. The signed certificate from the police is the way you will show Immigration that you were a victim of a crime.

The crime must have happened in the United States or violated the laws of the United States. The most common example of a crime that violates the laws of the United States but does not happen in the United States, is international child abduction.

No, you can apply from abroad.

No, the person who committed the crime could be a United States citizen or someone with no immigration status.

No, you can apply for U nonimmigrant status at any point.

Additional Resources

VAWA Self-Petition

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a gender neutral law that helps both men and women leave abusive relationships. It allows people to petition for themselves, free of charge, when they would otherwise have to depend on an abusive family member to help them with Immigration. Read More about “VAWA Self-Petition”