U.S. S Visa

This visa is for people who would be inadmissible to the U.S if they applied for any other type of visa.

S Visa

Following the tragedy of the 9/11 events, the U.S government considered future attacks. They had to take measures about future possible criminal or terrorist activity in the U.S. That is why they passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which made the S visa a tool against these activities.

This article will go through the S visa and provide relevant information on it.

What is the S Visa?

The S visa is for aliens assisting law enforcement as criminal or terrorist informants. It is otherwise known as the “Snitch” visa and is a U.S nonimmigrant visa. This means that it is temporary and does not give permission to live in the U.S permanently.

The U.S government created this visa for people who would be inadmissible to the U.S if they applied for any other type of visa. Also the visa is for those who would be deportable. These are people who have a past criminal record or problems with their immigration status.

The S visa allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive these grounds of inadmissibility. The waiver applies only if the person in question has valuable information on a criminal or terrorist organization or activity. The person would have to prove that they are a valuable witness. Their information would have to lead to discovering or preventing an illegal activity from happening in the U.S.

This visa is also helpful for those witnesses who hold information and are in danger in their home countries because of it. The U.S government can provide a safe haven for them in the country as long as they cooperate with the relevant authorities.

With the S visa, the informants can live in the U.S for 3 years. During this time, they must follow all U.S rules and laws. They can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and also work during the time they are in the U.S.

To make sure that the S visa is not misused, the U.S has set an annual fiscal year limit to them. Only 250 S visas may be issued each year. 200 of the visas are for criminal informants, and the remaining 50 are for terrorist informants.

What Are the Types of S Visas?

There are two main types of S visas and one derivative visa.

  • The S-5 visa is for Criminal Informants who can provide valuable information that leads to preventing, discovering, and/or convicting a criminal organization;
  • The S-6 visa is for Terrorist Informants who can provide valuable information that leads to preventing, discovering, and/or convicting a terrorist organization or attack;
  • The S-7 visa is for the families of the S-5 and S-6 visa holders. This includes their spouses and children.

What Are the S Visa Requirements?

Since there are two main types of S visas, they both have different requirements. For the S-5 visa, the Attorney General is the main authority to determine the eligibility. For the S-6 visa, the authorities for determining eligibility are the Attorney General and the Secretary of State.

The requirements for the S-5 visa for Criminal Informants are as follows:

  • The informant must have reliable information about an important aspect of a crime or pending commission of a crime;
  • The informant must be willing to share that information with U.S law enforcement officials or become a witness in court;
  • The informant’s presence in the U.S is important and leads to the successful investigation or prosecution of that crime.

The requirements for the S-6 visa for Terrorist Informants are as follows:

  • The informant must have reliable information about an important aspect of a terrorist organization or their activities;
  • The informant must be willing to share that information with U.S law enforcement officials or become a witness in court;
  • The informant is or will be in danger if they give this information;
  • The informant is eligible to receive an award from the State Department because they provided this information.

How to Apply for the S Visa?

The person who is an informant cannot apply for the S visa. They must go to the law enforcement authorities to prove that they have valuable information. The authorities will first determine whether the person is eligible under the S-5 or S-6 visas.

If the person is eligible, the law enforcement agency will file an application. The application is to submit Form I-854, Inter-Agency Alien Witness and Informant Record. Form I-854 must also have a worksheet prepared by the Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO). Finally, they must also attach any supporting documents.

The person who is being considered for the S visa must also write a declaration. This declaration will certify that the applicant is waiving their rights to a deportation hearing and to contest. The application is then signed by a senior official of the law enforcement agency. It is then submitted for adjudication.

Finally, the application is considered by the Attorney General, the State Department, and the OEO. They work together and make a decision about the visa.

What Are the S Visa Reporting Requirements?

Once the informant gets the S visa, they must follow some requirements to uphold it. First, the S visa informant must regularly report to the law enforcement agency that sponsored them. They must inform them of any knowledge about the criminal or terrorist organization. They must also report on their day to day activities. The law enforcement agency will in turn report to the Criminal Division’s Office of Enforcement Operations and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Additionally, the informants must also report quarterly to the Attorney General. Failure to complete the reporting duties could lead to deportation. The deportation authority in this case is the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Finally, the informant must not become involved with any criminal activities. They will lose their nonimmigrant status if they commit a criminal offense punishable by one or more years of imprisonment.

How Long is an S Visa Valid?

The S visa is only valid for 3 years. The U.S authorities have determined that 3 years is enough time for the informant to communicate any valuable knowledge on criminal or terrorist activities. After the 3 years, the informant must either return to their home country or seek a change in status.

The S visa does not allow for an extension. It is also difficult for the informant to qualify for changes in status due to their inadmissibility. But, one potential solution is to apply for a Green Card.

Can I Get a Green Card With an S Visa?

To be able to change their status and get a Green Card, the S visa informant must apply before their S visa expires. They must take several steps to ensure that they are eligible.

The first step is to get the Form I-854 with letters that prove that the informant has fulfilled their duty to the law enforcement agency by reporting regularly. The second step is to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. In the form, the applicant must check the box “h” in part 2 and write “S Nonimmigrant” on the line next to that box.

Additionally, the informant must attach these supporting documents to Form I-485:

  • Two photos fulfilling the Photo Requirements;
  • A copy of their birth certificate;
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Exam and Vaccination Record;
  • A copy of their Form I-94, Entry/Exit Record;
  • Copies of all the pages of their passport;
  • A letter showing all the dates of departure and entry in the U.S with explanations of why the informant had to leave the U.S.;
  • Proof of relationships if the informant also has dependents that are applying for permanent residence. This includes marriage or birth certificates.
  • Proof that the informant had a job during the time in the U.S;
  • Receipts that they have paid all the necessary fees.

Can My Family Join Me in The U.S With an S Visa?

The U.S authorities allow those who hold an S visa to bring their dependents in the U.S. Those that qualify as dependents are the spouse and the children. The children can be married or unmarried. The family of the S-5 or S-6 visa holders can get an S-7 visa.

Even though the S-5 and S-6 visas have annual fiscal caps of 250, the S-7 derivative visa does not have a limited number. This means that for those qualifying 250 S visa holders, there are unlimited S-7 visas if the family members qualify for them.

When the law enforcement agency applies for the main informant for the S visa, they also include in the document the family members. So the application also has the required S-7 visa documents. If the S-5 or S-6 visa gets approval from the OEO, then the S-7 visa is also automatically approved.

With the S-7 visa, the family members can attend school or get an EAD to legally work. Additionally, if the main S visa informant applies for a change in status to become a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and get a Green Card, the family also qualifies for it.