Victims of Crimes

U-Visas – Victims of Crimes

Many undocumented immigrants are fearful of admitting that they have been a victim of a crime in part because they believe they will be removed (deported) from the United States if they report the crime to law enforcement agencies, or assist in the prosecution of the crime.

Some undocumented immigrants may be afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance. Such fear causes many immigrants to remain in abusive relationships.

Protections for Victims of Crimes

U.S. law provides several protections for legal and undocumented immigrants who have been victims of a crime. There are specific protections for victims of domestic violence, victims of certain crimes, and victims of human trafficking.

All agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including USCIS, are legally prohibited from disclosing that a victim has applied for VAWA, T, or U immigration benefits.

VAWA Self-Petitioners

Undocumented immigrants who are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by their U.S. citizen or LPR current/former spouse, their U.S. citizen or LPR parent, their U.S. citizen adult son or daughter, may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence themselves without needing the abuser to file for immigration benefits on their behalf. This provision of the law was created under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

VAWA provisions apply equally to men and women. Victims of battery or extreme cruelty, whether a spouse, child, or parent of the abuser, may self-petition by filing Form I-360, Petition for Widow(er)s, Amerasians, and Special Immigrants.

U nonimmigrant status

U nonimmigrant status (or U visa) offers immigration protection for victims of certain crimes. To obtain U status, the victim must obtain certification from law enforcement. However, obtaining certification does not grant a benefit; only USCIS has the authority to grant or deny this benefit.

Victims of the following crimes may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Perjury
  • Felonious Assault
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Peonage
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Witness Tampering
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual Assault
  • Slave Trade
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crime


Victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, but they must establish that they:

  • Are a victim of a qualifying criminal activity and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime.
  • Possess credible and reliable information about the qualifying criminal activity.
  • Are, have been, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of that qualifying criminal activity.
  • Are a victim of criminal activity that violated a U.S. law.

Qualifying family members may also be eligible to apply for benefits.

T nonimmigrant status

Trafficking in persons—also known as “human trafficking”—is a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers prey on many types of people, often individuals who are poor, unemployed, underemployed, or who lack the safety and protection of strong social networks. Victims are often lured into trafficking under the false pretenses of good jobs and better lives and then forced to work under brutal and inhumane conditions. Many believe that human trafficking is a problem that only occurs in other countries, but human trafficking also happens in the United States.

The T nonimmigrant status (or T visa) provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons who assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases.

Victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, but they must establish that they:

  • Are a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.
  • Are physically present in the United States due to trafficking.
  • Comply with any reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution (or are under the age of 18).
  • Would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the United States.

Qualifying family members may also be eligible to apply for benefits.

To learn more about how Immigration Attorney Karla De La Rosa-King can help you as a crime victim, contact her today. We are ready to begin helping you immediately.