The government of the United States issues US visas to immigrants that fall victim to certain crimes that automatically enable them to live and work legally in the country for up to as long as four years. Known as U-visas, they are non-immigrant visas of which just 10,000 are issued per annum.
Immigrants that hold U-visas are allowed to include members of their family, including spouses, parents, step-parents, adopted parents, children and unmarried adult children, on the visa. In order to be eligible to apply for a U-visa, the immigrant needs to have been subjected to significant mental or physical abuse caused by criminal activity that falls into one of 20 categories such as torture, sexual assault or rape, slave trade, hostage situations, murder, kidnapping, obstruction of justice or having been solicited to participate in any of those crimes.
The petition that the applicant submits should include information on whether or not they can give more details about the crime to US officials, including helping to prosecute the individuals concerned. U-visas immigrant applicants also need to be willing to work with local law enforcement and the crimes have to have taken place in the United States or a US territory, or have violated US law.
U-visas began to be provided 14 years ago, back in 2000, but did not begin formal distribution until 2008. In the years between 2009 and 2013, the amount of applicants for U-visas dramatically increased, with more and more victims asking for government assistance every year.