Foreign nationals in the U.S. who become victims of criminal offenses may hesitate to come forward about the matter and report those who break the law. However, law enforcement needs this information to bring wrongdoers to justice and prevent further crimes.
To provide an incentive for undocumented immigrants to participate in the apprehension of criminals, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers U nonimmigrant visas in certain cases.
Qualifying criminal offenses
The USCIS has a list of the offenses and activities that may cause a victim to become eligible for a U visa. These include sex offenses, such as assault, exploitation, rape, incest, prostitution and female genital mutilation. A victim of slavery, kidnapping, abduction, false imprisonment or involuntary servitude may also qualify, as well as victims of the following:
- Felonious assault
Any activities with elements that are similar to the qualifying offenses may also count, as well as attempts or conspiracies to commit them.
The victim of a qualifying offense in the U.S. whose physical or mental abuse from the crime was substantial may become eligible by providing information about the crime to law enforcement. This entails willingness to help law enforcement to investigate or prosecute the crime. Those who are under 16 years of age or who have a disability that prevents them from providing information may have a parent, guardian or friend provide the assistance to law enforcement on their behalf.
Even those who are not currently admissible to the U.S. may become eligible by applying for a waiver.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security explains that a U visa provides temporary work authorization, temporary immigration status for the victim’s qualifying family members and the potential for lawful permanent resident status.