The U.S. immigration process can be complex, with different visas that allow immigrants to enter and remain in the country. The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is for victims of specific crimes who have sustained physical or mental abuse and who are able to assist police or government personnel in the investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offenses. Congress drafted the U nonimmigrant visa by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (and the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in the fall of 2000. The Act was signed by President Clinton and later reauthorized by Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump. The goal of this legislation was to bolster the authority of police agencies in prosecuting domestic abuse, sexual assault, undocumented immigrant trafficking, and other criminal offenses.
Eligibility for Obtaining U Visa Status
An individual may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if he or she:
- Is the victim of qualifying criminal activity
- Has suffered physical or mental abuse as a victim of a crime
- Has information about the criminal activity
- Has been helpful with law enforcement’s investigation or prosecution of the offense
- The crime occurred on U.S. soil or violated U.S. laws
- Is admissible to the United States
It is important to note that “next friend” refers to a person who appears in a lawsuit to represent an immigrant who is under 16 years old, who is incompetent or incapacitated, or who has suffered significant mental or physical abuse as a result of being a victim of qualifying crimes. These acts include but are not limited to violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, robbery, and rape. The next friend is not party to the actual legal proceedings and does not act as a guardian. If someone is under 16 years old or is unable to provide detailed information because of a disability, his or her parent, guardian, or next friend may provide the information about the crime on his or her behalf. In addition, if someone is not admissible, he or she may apply for a waiver on Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant (Form I-192).