Vera works with law enforcement agencies to provide training on the U-visa, which provides legal immigration status for victims of crime who cooperate with law enforcement.

Our Work

In October 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded Vera and Legal Momentum a three-year grant to develop and distribute field-tested tools designed to make immigrants who are victims of crime more likely to report the crimes and cooperate with law enforcement officials. The project has created a training curriculum for police personnel, as well as a tool kit for law enforcement about using the U-visa. The project is also developing other related resources, such as webcasts, webinars, and podcasts.

Why Bring Together Law Enforcement and Immigrant Crime Victims?

Congress created the “U” nonimmigrant classification, known as the U-visa, as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. The U-visa protects crime victims from deportation and strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, prosecute, and solve cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other crimes.

By using this visa, law enforcement officers can address immigrant victims’ fear of reporting crime and encourage collaboration with investigators. Yet few law enforcement agencies are aware of the U-visa and how it can be used as a crime-fighting tool. Many of those who are familiar with this type of  visa are unclear about how it fits into their agency’s broader public safety efforts. Law enforcement officers need to know how to use all the tools at their disposal effectively—including the U-visa—so that they can help keep communities safe.

For more information or to share information about law-enforcement agencies that are using the U-visa effectively, contact Susan Shah.

How law enforcement is using the U-visa
Law enforcement agencies increasingly recognize the value of the U-visa (officially known as “U” nonimmigrant status) as a community-policing and crime-fighting tool. This type of visa provides temporary legal status to immigrant crime victims in the United States who are helpful to law enforcement...
Law enforcement use of the U-visa
In this podcast, Rodolfo Estrada, senior program associate of Vera's Center on Immigration and Justice, discusses law enforcement use of the U-visa. The U-visa provides temporary legal status to immigrant crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement. Joining Rodolfo are Edna Yang, legal counsel...
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Editor's note: Rodolfo Estrada is a former senior program associate for Vera's Center on Immigration and Justice. He is the author of the new Vera brief How Law Enforcement Is Using the U-Visa and is currently executive director of the Northern...

U-visa image

In May 2010, Legal Momentum and the Vera Institute of Justice held a two-day training in Washington, DC, about the U-visa. Personnel from 13 law enforcement agencies participated, learning how to use this type of visa, which provides legal immigration status for victims of crime who cooperate with law enforcement, and how its use can help improve public safety.


Participating agencies:

  • Alexandria (VA) Police Department
  • Appleton (WI) Police Department
  • Austin (TX) Police Department
  • Boise (ID) Police Department
  • City of La Crosse (WI) Police Department
  • Lexington County (SC) Sheriff’s Department
  • Metropolitan Nashville (TN) Police Department
  • Metropolitan (DC) Police Department
  • Multnomah County (OR) Sheriff’s Office
  • Salem (MA) Police Department
  • San Francisco (CA) Police Department
  • Storm Lake (IA) Police Department
  • Travis County (TX) Sheriff’s Office

The training was the first of 13. We have since completed trainings in the following cities: San Francisco, CA; Appleton, WI; Hilo, HI; San Antonio, TX; Spokane, WA; Alexandria, VA; and Edison, NJ. These trainings focus on issues important to officers’ understanding and use of the U-visa, including:

  • the U-visa certification process;
  • enhancing officers’ capacity to work with immigrant victims;
  • the U-visa application procedure; and
  • reasons that law enforcement agents may not be signing U-visa certifications.

The National Immigrant Victims’ Access to Justice Partnership has also developed a tool kit for law enforcement that includes training modules and other materials related to the U-visa, such as a model policy and a FAQ sheet. 

Community members or law enforcement officials who are interested in learning more about future trainings or hosting one should contact Susan Shah.