Photo: What Are U Visas, and Who Are They For?
In October 2000, Congress created the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act in October 2000. However, it did not publish official regulations for what would become known as the U Visas until 2007, with many immigrants only learning about its existence This is likely due to those that fear it may be abused by those just wishing to legally remain in the U.S.
The U Visa is intended undocumented immigrants who are the victims of certain serious crimes and who have cooperated with authorities in the prosecution of the perpetrator.
The process however, is not as simple as being a victim of a crime. An application for a U Visa must include a certificate from federal, state or local law enforcement stating that the applicant cooperated with the investigation of the crime, and a prosecutor or a judge must also attest to this. And U visa status cannot exceed four years. After three years, an immigrant in U visa status can apply for an adjustment of status (green card).
Another special visa is the T Visa which is intended for undocumented immigrants who are victims of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” and their families. T Visas also require the same cooperation with law enforcement.
When the T Visa was announced in 2002, Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar said, “The T visa is a powerful new tool to protect the most vulnerable victims and prevent future trafficking. It will help INS put the criminals responsible for these horrific acts out of business and behind bars.”
Applicants for the T visa will be granted expanded access to government benefits regardless of their immigration status. To qualify, a trafficking victim must either be under 18 years old or obtain certification from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) that she is willing to assist in every reasonable way in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking perpetrators (neither actual cooperation nor even the existence of an investigation is required; the victim must merely show willingness to cooperate); and she has made a bona fide application for a T visa that has not been denied (or she has been granted permission by the attorney general to stay in the U.S. to assist in a prosecution of traffickers).