Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 24.17 (A)

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(A)  Who Can Apply.  The U visa is available to immigrants who have suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim” of one of the following forms of criminal activity that occurred in the United States: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, hostage holding, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit one of these offenses.[226] 


The “U” visa applicant also must show that s/he possesses information about the criminal activity, and that s/he has been, is being, or is likely to be helpful to federal, state or local authorities investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity.[227]  If the victim is a child under the age of 16, then the parent, guardian or next friend of the child victim may possess the information and indicate the willingness to be helpful.  Further, the applicant must obtain certification from a federal, state or local official or a qualifying DHS officer to this effect.[228]  The U.S. Attorney’s Office cannot force the DHS to grant such a visa.[229]


In persuading the DHS to grant such a visa, it may be useful to refer to the findings that Congress made in support of the visa.[230]  An August 30, 2001 INS memorandum provides basic information, and the memo should be brought to the attention of prosecutors and DHS officials who are unaware of its contents.[231]  The memorandum emphasizes that pending a final regulation, “aliens who are identified as possible victims in the above categories should not be removed from the United States until they have had the opportunity to avail themselves of the provisions of the VTPA.”[232]  Possible victims should be provided with employment authorization.[233]


The National Immigration Law Project of the National Lawyers Guild is serving as a clearinghouse for information concerning the visa.  Advocates should consult the website for updated information before submitting applications by going to

[226] INA § 101(a)(15)(U), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(U).

[227] INA § 101(a)(15)(U)(i)(III), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(U)(i)(III).

[228] INA § 214(o), 8 U.S.C. § 1184(o).

[229] Assistant United States Attorneys lack the authority to bind immigration authorities unless the immigration authorities give their written assent and otherwise comply with 28 C.F.R. § 0.197.

[230] Title VII of the VAWA 2000, § 1513, created the U visa. 

[231] “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (VTPA) Policy Memorandum #2 –  “T” and “U” Nonimmigrant Visas,” Memorandum from Michael D. Cronin, Acting Executive Associate Commission, Office of Programs, INS, August 30, 2001. A copy is available from the National Immigration Project website ( and was reprinted in 78 Interpreter Releases 1751-2, Appendix II (Nov. 12, 2001).

[232] Memorandum, page 2 (emphasis in original). 

[233] Ibid., page 4.



Seventh Circuit

Torres-Tristan v. Holder, 56 F.3d 653 (7th Cir. Sept. 1, 2011) (court lacks jurisdiction to review denial of U-visa or I-192 waiver as decisions made outside removal proceedings).

Ninth Circuit

Lee v. Holder, 599 F.3d 973 (9th Cir. Mar. 25, 2010) (Immigration Judge lacks jurisdiction to consider application for U-Visa interim relief).


On Mar. 7, 2013, the President signed into law the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The reauthorization contains some expanded protections for immigrants, but did not increase the number of available U visas. The law includes new provisions on stalking, children of self-petitioners, children of U visa applicants, immigrants engaged to citizens, and funding for law enforcement to fight trafficking. The text of the reauthorization passed by Congress at
New Interim Rule (Sept. 17, 2007):

Analysis by ASISTA and Legal Momentums Immigrant Women Program:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in late August 2012 that it had approved 10,000 U visas, the annual statutory maximum. The U visa is for victims of certain crimes who are helpful with law enforcement investigations or prosecutions. An approved visa allows the person to remain in the U.S., get a work permit, and eventually apply for legal residency. 10,000 U visas were issued throughout this fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2012. The Vermont Service Center reports that it is currently "preprocessing" U applications, and plans to send out approvals and work authorization to those pre-approved, after the first of October. - Guidance from ASISTA on how to proceed now that USCIS has reached the 10,000 cap on principal U visas for this fiscal year, which also addresses derivatives and requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), at - A practice advisory from ASISTA on the intersection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and U visa derivatives at - A practice advisory from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center on the U nonimmigrant status eligibility requirements for children and youth at Podcast: - Gail Pendleton of ASISTA discusses how to work with Local Enforcement Agencies on U Visa Certifications at Other Resources: ASISTA ASISTA provides a resource page on U Visas that includes tips for filing, regulations, checklists for clients, case law, guidance for different procedural postures, and more at Catholic Legal Immigration Network The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) offers a Spanish U visa fact sheet for clients at Legal Momentum Legal Momentum has a resource page on U visa training materials and tools at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a webpage with information on U visas, including basic requirements, questions and answers, and links to other resources at