The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. No. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1464-1548 (2000)) was enacted to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute serious crimes while at the same time offering protection to victims of such crimes without the immediate risk of being removed from the country. Recognizing that victims without legal status may be reluctant to report crimes or assist in the investigation or prosecution of crimes, Congress created the U nonimmigrant status program.

The U visa is an immigration benefit for victims of certain serious “qualifying crimes” who meet eligibility requirements. (INA 101(a)(15)(U)). You may be eligible for U visa immigration benefits if you (1) are the direct or indirect victim of a qualifying crime that occurred in the United States; (2) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a crime; (3) have information about the crime; and (4) were helpful, or are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, or other officials in the detention, investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the criminal activity.

A “qualifying crime” includes, but is not limited to, abduction, abusive sexual contact, domestic violence, felonious assault, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, stalking, torture, witness tampering, etc., and related criminal activities (including attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes).

If eligible, the U visa allows a victim (or, in the case of manslaughter or murder, certain family members of the victim) to temporarily remain and work in the United States, generally for four years. In addition, certain family members of the U visa holder may also be eligible to live and work in the United States as derivative beneficiaries, including unmarried children under 21, a spouse, parents or unmarried siblings under 18 years old if the U visa holder is under the age of 21 years. If certain conditions are met, a U visa holder may apply for permanent residency after three years.