Victims of certain crimes who are currently helping or have helped law enforcement in the past in the investigation or prosecution of a crime, or who are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity, may be eligible for a U visa. In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA) to encourage crime victims to report crimes and cooperate in investigations and prosecutions regardless of their immigration status.
The law sought to give undocumented people an incentive to report crimes to police. Women and children, at risk of being victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault, would now be more likely to come forward to police. In the past, they may have shied away from filing reports due to a fear of deportation and an inability to speak fluent English. In passing the VTVPA, Congress acknowledged that victims without lawful status would be averse to contact with police, for fear of being removed from the country. The law also spurred police to focus on protecting immigrant communities.
If a person thinks she may be eligible for a U visa, then the individual will file form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, which must be sent to U.S.CI.S. along with supporting documentation and a Form I-918B, certification signed by law enforcement.
If approved, the U Visa allows eligible victims to remain temporarily in the United States. Under certain conditions, a person with a U Visa may adjust her status to lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The number of available U Visas is capped at 10,000 per fiscal year.
Since the U visa application process is relatively complex, applicants typically seek the help of an immigration attorney or BIA accredited representative before filing.