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U-Visa Information Available in English - Spanish - Chinese
The U-Visa is a form of witness protection. It is a non-immigrant, temporary visa, which allows a victim who has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from certain crimes (specified in federal law), and who provides information that has, is, or will assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crimes, to remain in the United States for up to 4 years. An immigrant granted a U-Visa will subsequently be given legal status to live and work in the United States.
The City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department have been staunch supporters of the U-Visa program since it started back in 2007. The U-Visa program furthers the City’s humanitarian policies of providing refuge to victims of human rights violations and crimes abroad.
We would like to encourage community members, especially those who are non-documented and in fear of deportation, that they can come forward to report crime and seek our assistance with the U-Visa program.
- The crime could have occurred in the United States to a victim who is a tourist or has some other type of limited duration visa.
- It could have been perpetrated on a person who has entered this country without a visa, as the City has seen in cases of "amigo checking" or child prostitution.
- The crime might even have completely occurred abroad, but violate the United States law, such as when a United States citizen engages in child prostitution or human trafficking while in a foreign country. In such a case, the victim would need to be brought to the United States to assist in the investigation or prosecution.
Scroll down to find out more about the U-Visa program.
What is a U-Visa?
The U-Visa was created to provide temporary immigration benefits to aliens who are victims of qualifying criminal activity, and to their qualifying family members, as appropriate.
The U-Visa is available to illegal immigrants who have met each of the five points below:
- Has been the victim of one or more qualifying crimes;
- Has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of one or more qualifying crimes;
- Has useful information concerning the crime which occurred;
- Has helped, or is likely to help, in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
- The crime committed violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States.
What Are Qualifying Crimes?
The serious crimes listed in the table below are qualifying crimes. If you have been a victim of one or more of these crimes and cooperate with authorities, you may be eligible to apply for a U-Visa.
|U-Visa Qualifying Crimes|
What is the Purpose of a U-Visa?
The law gives law enforcement agencies the ability to investigate and prosecute certain types of criminal cases, including domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while at the same time offering protection to victims of such crimes.
The law also helps law enforcement agencies provide assistance to immigrants who are victims of crime.
How to Apply for a U-Visa
The U-Visa program normally begins with a request being received by OPD, usually through the victim’s advocate and/or attorney. The Department’s role is to certify that
- The U-Visa applicant is the victim of a qualifying crime
- The applicant is, has been, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity
U-Visa applications must be mailed to:
Special Victims Section / U-Visa
In addition, a self-addressed stamped envelope must accompany all applications
Depending on the final disposition of the assessment of “helpfulness,” the Department will issue a Law Enforcement Certification (USCIS Form I-918) or deny the request. It is then up to the U-Visa applicant to submit his/her U-Visa application, including the Certification of Assistance, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for processing.
All U-Visas must be filed by the applicant and filed with Immigration at the Vermont Service Center, 75 Lower Welden Street, St. Albans, VT 05479. The law enforcement agency does not submit the application.
What is a law enforcement certification?
An immigrant who is the victim of one of the listed crimes must obtain a certification from a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, or a prosecutor, judge, or other authority, which is responsible for the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Other agencies such as Child Protective Services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor can also issue a certification.
You may obtain a Law Enforcement Certification from the Oakland Police Department. Contact OPD's Certifying Officials, Lt. Jill Encinias and Lt. Carlos Gonzalez, at 510-238-3253 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a form for the law enforcement certification?
Yes. The U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918, Supplement B) is a USCIS form which must be completed and signed by the agency or authority responsible for the investigation or prosecution. The person completing and signing the I-918 must either be:
- The head of the agency, or
- A supervisor designated by the agency and authorized to issue a certification on behalf of the agency.
Legal Contacts - Free to Qualifying Clients
The following organizations provide legal assistance for individuals seeking U-Visas. Services are free to qualifying clients.
|API Legal Outreach|
1121 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
|Bay Area Legal Aid|
1735 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612
433 Jefferson Street
Oakland, CA 94607
|Centro Legal de la Raza|
2501 International Blvd
Oakland, CA 94601
|East Bay Sanctuary Covenant|
2362 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
|IIBA: Instituto Internacional|
405 14th street, Suite 500
Oakland, CA 94612
|Immigration Center for Women and Children|
3543 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Other U-Visa FAQs
Are Family Members Eligible?
A family member of a U-Visa applicant cannot apply for a U-Visa on his or her own behalf. However, the U-Visa applicant can file a petition on behalf of family members:
- If the U-Visa applicant is less than 21 years of age, the applicant can file for or her spouse, children, unmarried siblings under 18, and parents.
- If the U-Visa applicant is 21 or older, he or she can file for his or her spouse and the applicant’s children.
The applicant must file Form I-918, Supplement A, for qualifying family members.
Can Application Be Made From Outside the United States?
Yes. Immigrants who are victims of a qualifying crime, and their family members, can apply for a U-Visa either from outside the United States, as long as the qualifying crime was committed either:
- while the immigrant was in the United States
- or by a United States citizen.
The immigrant and family members will file for the U-Visa with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the immigrant’s country.
Is there a limit on the number of U-Visas Immigration can approve?
Yes. Immigration may grant no more than 10,000 U-Visas in any fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). The limit does not apply to spouses, children, parents, and unmarried siblings who are accompanying or following to join the principal alien victim.
If the cap is reached in any fiscal year before all petitions are adjudicated, Immigration will create a waiting list.
Applicants placed on the waiting list will be given deferred action (they will be eligible to apply for employment authorization and permitted to travel) until their petitions can be adjudicated after the start of the following fiscal year.
How long can an immigrant have a U-Visa?
U-Visa status cannot exceed 4 years. After 3 years, an immigrant in U-Visa status can apply for permanent resident status (Green Card).
What About a Green Card?
Can an immigrant granted U-Visa status eventually apply for permanent resident status (Green Card)?
Yes. The immigrant must have been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least 3 years since the date of the issuance of the U-Visa. In addition, Immigration must determine that the immigrant’s continued presence in the United States should be granted on humanitarian grounds in order to keep family unity, or is otherwise in the best interest of the public.
Is there a deadline for submitting a U-Visa petition?
There is no deadline for immigrants who are applying for U-Visa relief.
Even with a Deportation Order?
I am the victim of a crime with a deportation order issued by Immigration. Can I apply for a U-Visa?
Yes. You are still eligible to apply for a U-Visa even if you have a deportation order.
Once the U-Visa is approved, you will need to file a motion to reopen the deportation order with the Immigration Court. Alternatively, if you are about to be ordered deported, you must file a Stay to the deportation.
Are There Filing Fees?
No. There is no filing fee for applicants for the U-Visa or for qualifying family members. However, applicants and qualifying family members must pay the fingerprinting fee for each person ages 14 – 79 included with each petition. The fingerprinting fee is currently $80 per person. Petitioners who are financially unable to pay the fingerprinting services fee may submit an application for a fee waiver.
Do I Need to File an Application Now If I Was Granted Interim U-Visa Relief Prior to 2008?
Yes. Immigrants granted interim U-Visa relief should have completed and filed Form I-918 prior to April 14, 2008. However, an immigrant granted interim relief does not have to file I-918 Supplement B (Certification from a Qualifying Agency).
For more information:
Call OPD Youth & Family Services Section (510) 238-3641