Special Visas

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There are three types of special visas, all of them are related to crimes.

S Visa

S visas are given to aliens who possess significant information on criminal and terrorist activities, in other words, people who “snitch” on their associates.  The S visa provision was added to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 in response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and allows aliens who possess “critical information on criminal or terrorist organizations to come into the United States in order to provide information to law enforcement officials.”   Since 1995, almost 900 S visas have been issued.  From 2004 to 2008, 625 S visas were processed, but only 345 have been approved.

Presently, there is no processing or application fee for S visas.  However, not all of those visas are going to informants.  According to law, up to 200 criminal informants and 50 terrorist informants may be allowed into the U.S. each year, but their family members are also allowed to apply for an S visa under the program provisions.  There is no cap on how many visas may be given to family members.

T Visa

Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (VTVPA), which, among other things, allows such people to apply for 3-year temporary visas that lead to permanent resident status. Although 5,000 are available per year, only 2,000 had been issued as of January, 2009.

Basic eligibility requirements:

  • came to the United States illegally to engage in commercial sex workers, involuntary servitudepeonagedebt bondage, or slavery
  • committed commercial sex acts, or agreed to come to the US, as a result of force, fraud, or coercion
  • would suffer extreme hardship if deported
  • report their trafficking crime to federal authorities and, if at least 15 years old, help with investigations and prosecutions

Family members may qualify for:

  • T-2 visas – spouses of T-1 applicants
  • T-3 visas – children of T-1 applicants
  • T-4 visas – parents of T-1 applicants who are children

In order to receive T visa, an applicant must seek sponsorship from law enforcement or the prosecutor.  Competent legal representation is critical in preparing the T visa application.  Once approved T status, the alien will be eligible to file I-485 after three years to adjust status to permanent resident.

U Visa

The U visa was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act, enacted in October 2000. It is available to aliens who 1) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse resulting from a wide range of criminal activity, and 2) have been helpful, are being helpful or are likely to be helpful with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The U visa provides eligible immigrants with authorized stay in the United States and employment authorization.


There are four basic eligibility requirements for U visa:

  • The immigrant has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of certain criminal activity;
  • The immigrant possesses information concerning that criminal activity;
  • The immigrant has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution the criminal activity; and
  • The criminal activity described violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States.

In order to qualify for U Visa, the alien must be the victim of one or more of the following crimes or any similar activity in violation of Federal State, or local criminal law: rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation; being held hostage; 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 any of the above mentioned crimes.