The U nonimmigrant visa was created by Congress in 2000 to provide protection for victims of crimes and increase the noncitizen population’ s reporting of criminal activity. To qualify for a U visa, a noncitizen must be the victim of a crime committed on U.S. soil and be willing to cooperate with law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of the crime. Each year, 10,000 visas are offered to principal applicants, but the demand for visas is significantly higher, which has led to a backlog that now stands around 142,000 applications. 

Critics of the U visa are concerned about the potential for fraud, but overall, the program has successfully promoted public safety, is well-received by local law enforcement, and has maintained reliable safeguards against fraud. This Niskanen Policy Brief examines the legal and academic literature on the U visa’s effectiveness in promoting cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant populations and offers policy recommendations to address the growing backlog that threatens to derail the program’s benefits.

To read the full Policy Brief, please click here.