The U.S. government places a priority on investigating crimes, and also on protecting victims of crime. The government issues a specific visa to meet these important objectives.
The 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act authorizes a type of visa status known as U nonimmigrant for victims of certain gender crimes and other offenses who suffered physical and mental abuse.
This immigration law, along with other laws, is also intended to protect crime victims who suffered significant mental and physical abuse from these crimes and are willing to assist law enforcement investigate and prosecute offenders. The visa also helps law enforcement serve crime victims.
An individual may be eligible for a U Visa if they are:
- Victims of a qualifying crime.
- Suffered significant physical or mental abuse from being a crime victim.
- Has information about criminal activity. A parent, guardian, or friend may present the information on the victim’s behalf if the victim is under 16 or unable to provide information because of a disability.
- Helpful or likely to be helpful to law enforcement in their investigation or prosecution. A parent, guardian, or friend may act on behalf of victims under 16 or who are unable to give information because of a disability.
- The crime took place in the United States or violated U.S. law.
- The victim is admissible to the United States or obtains a waiver.
Crimes qualifying for a U visa include:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Mutilation of female genital
- Felony assault
- Obstruction of justice
- Debt slavery or servitude
- Lying under oath
- Sexual assault or exploitation
- Engaging in slave trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful restraint
U nonimmigrant status lasts four years. Extensions may be granted if law enforcement requests an extension, exceptional circumstances, consular processing delays, or if there is a green card application.
There is an annual limit of 10,000 U visas that may be issued to principal petitioners. But there is no cap for family members who obtained status from applicants such as spouses, children, or other eligible family members.
Applicants can join a waiting list if this visa limit is reached before all nonimmigrant applicants are decided. Applicants on the waiting list will receive deferred action or parole and will be eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting for the availability of additional U visas.
After additional U visas become available, waiting list applicants and those who received a valid determination will receive a visa in the order in which their application was received.
Attorneys can assist victims with this process. They can also represent in all proceedings.