I am under 16 year old. What does it mean that a “next friend” can help me?
If you are under 16 years old, incapacitated, or incompetent, a “next friend” is generally someone who appears in a lawsuit to act on your behalf but the next friend does not actually apply for U visa status. In the case of applying for U visa status, a next friend would primarily stand in for you in working with law enforcement. You would still have to show you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of a crime.* The next friend is not a party in the proceedings and is not appointed as a guardian for immigration purposes, though s/he may be an appointed guardian helping you in other matters.** Next friends can be used to supply information on behalf of children who are applying, but can't supply all of the information or helpfulness themselves.
* INA §§ 101(a)(15)(U)(i)(II) & (III)
** 8 CFR § 214.14(a)(7)