The category for S visas emerged as a tool against criminal and terrorist acts. After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, Congress amended the law.
This Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) established the new S nonimmigrant visa for foreign witnesses and informants. It was part of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
Visas for the USA such as the visa B1 and B-2, the student visa F-1, diplomats with their type A visa, temporary agricultural workers with their H-2A visa or exchange visitors with visa J- 1 among others, are referenced by the letter that indicates the subsection of the INA that provides authority for their admission. Therefore, the S visa is the abbreviated reference to §101 (a) (15) (S) of INA 2.
In this article you will find extensive information for 2021 on everything related to the S visa.
In addition, our immigration experts and criminal lawyers in Los Angeles are at your service to answer questions.
With a combined experience of 50 years, both Ramiro and David can solve their doubts by phone or through the contact form.
What are S visas and what benefits do they provide?
The U.S. Category S nonimmigrant visa allows witnesses or informants to assist the police and provide information about a criminal or terrorist organization in the USA. It is known as a “Snitch” visa.
It is a temporary visa and does not give permission to reside in the United States permanently. However, the status of the informant can be changed to that of permanent resident as we will explain later.
The US government created this visa for people who would be inadmissible for another type of visa. Also for those deportable. That is, people with a criminal record or problems in their immigration status.
The S visa allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive these grounds of inadmissibility. This exemption only applies when the person has valuable information about a terrorist or criminal activity or organization for the purpose of discovery or prevention.
This visa is also useful for those witnesses who have information and are in danger in their countries of origin because of it. The United States government can provide them with a safe haven in the country as long as they cooperate with the relevant authorities.
Types of S visas
S-5 (Criminal informants)
This classification can be granted to a foreign citizen who has critical information about a criminal organization. For this, the Attorney General classifies him as having truthful and critical information.
The role of the alien must be vital to the success of the criminal investigation.
Likewise, the foreigner must have provided or be willing to provide said information to the authorities. That is, before federal or state police and a federal or state court.
The number of witnesses or informants receiving the S-5 visa in a fiscal year cannot exceed 200.
S-6 (Terrorist informants)
The S-6 visa is granted to people who possess critical and reliable information regarding a terrorist organization, operation or company.
The Attorney General and the Secretary of State will determine if they grant this classification and if the foreigner will pose a danger. Also if you are eligible to receive a reward under the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956.
The number of informants admitted under this classification cannot exceed 50 in any fiscal year.
S-7 (Accompanying Family Members)
The S-7 non-immigrant visa is for the families of S-5 and S-6 visa holders. This includes their spouses, married or unmarried children, and parents.
Eligibility requirements for type S visas
The main category S visas have different requirements. For the S-5 visa the main authority is the Attorney General and for the S-6 it is the Secretary of State and also the Attorney General. These determine the eligibility of visas.
For the S-5 visa of informants of organizations or criminal acts these are the requirements:
- The witness or informant must have reliable information about an important aspect of the crime or criminal organization.
- The informant must be willing to share that information with US law enforcement officials. USA or be a witness in court.
- The presence of the informant in the USA is important for the success of the investigation or prosecution of the case.
Below you can read the requirements for the S-6 visa for informants about terrorist organizations or acts:
- The informant must possess reliable information about a terrorist organization or activities.
- He must also be willing to share that information with US law enforcement officials or to be a witness in court.
- The informant is or will be in danger if they provide this information and;
- He is eligible to receive compensation from the Department of State for providing this information.
Application and documentation required for an S visa
In Type S visas the petitioner is the law enforcement agency with which the immigrant is cooperating. The request is made on Form I-854.
The request must include the agency’s reasons for collaborating with the immigrant. This law enforcement agency must take responsibility for the alien from admission to departure.
Spouses, single or married children, and parents of S-5 and S-6 visa holders can enter the U.S. USA in S-7 visa category. They must be included on Form I-854.
How many type S visas are issued annually?
For the S-5 visa only 200 people are admitted each fiscal year and for the S-6 they are 50. The maximum period of admission in category S is three years.
Restrictions for S visa holders
For the duration of their stay in the United States, S visa holders must comply with the following:
- Inform the Attorney General every three months about their activities and location;
- Not be convicted of a crime that is punishable by one or more years in prison;
- They will not contest a deportation order by any other means than a request for withholding of removal based on fear of persecution if you return home if deportation proceedings begin before the alien becomes a permanent resident; and
- They must meet any other conditions that the Attorney General imposes during their stay in the United States.
For how long is an S visa valid for?
An S visa is valid for up to three years. It cannot be extended. S visa holders can, however, adjust their status to lawful permanent resident. This can only be done from a proposal done by a federal or state law enforcement agency or the US Attorney’s Office.
When can the S visa holder apply for an adjustment of status?
The S visa holder can apply for adjustment of status to that of a legal permanent resident when the investigation or prosecution by the US federal or state agency was successful; and the S visa holder contributed substantially to its success.
The Green Card for the S visa informant
The R-type visa immigrant collaborates with a law enforcement agency as a witness or informant. This agency is the one that can send an application for permanent residence (Green Card) on behalf of the immigrant. A Nonimmigrant S is an individual who has collaborated with a law enforcement agency as a witness or informant.
It is important to emphasize that only a federal or state agency or one of the US Federal Prosecutors Offices can send such a request. It must also be the same one that the immigrant collaborated with.
As mentioned above, family members of eligible S visa holders can also apply for a green card.
Procedure to request the Green Card
The procedure consists of two steps:
- File Form I-854.
This form must be completed by the competent authorities submitting the request on behalf of the individual.
Along with the completed and signed form:
- Evidence that the witness or informant fulfilled his obligations and provided information about possible causes of inadmissibility.
- After the Form I-854 is approved you must file Form I-485.
Here the applicant must check box “h” in Part 2 of the form and write “Non Immigrant S” or “S-Qualified Family Member” on the line next to box “h” .
Documentation to submit along with Form I-485
- 2 passport photos.
- Copy of the birth certificate.
- Form I-693, Medical and Immunization Report
- Copy of Form I-94, Check-in and Check-out
- Copies of all the pages of your passport. If you do not have a passport, you must send an explanation.
- Detailed list of dates of entry and exit from the USA while under the status of the S visa category and their respective explanation
- Proof of relationship with witness or informant.
- Proof of employment.
- Corresponding rates.
Do you have questions? Do you want to know if you are eligible for an S visa? Do you need help with your case? Our lawyers are at your service and ready to answer your questions.