U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that for the fourth year in a row, they have reached 10,000 statutory maximum number of approvals of U–visa petitions for fiscal year 2013. The U nonimmigrant visa is available to victims of serious crimes that have or will help law enforcement in their investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The visa category was established by Congress as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. The goal is to help local police and other law enforcement deal with crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of immigrants and to help victims who are willing and able to help the authorities.
The amount of U–visas available was limited to 10,000 each fiscal year, and over 76,000 crime victims and their families have received the visa since the program began in 2008. Since the statutory limit was reached for 2013, the visa becomes available again at the start of the 2014 fiscal year on October 1, 2013 ― although USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions.
Who is eligible for a U–visa
A foreign national may be eligible for a U–visa if they were a victim of a serious crime, such as murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, slavery or human trafficking, and they can establish:
- They were a victim of a qualifying crime which happened in the United States or was illegal here
- They suffered either considerable physical or mental abuse as a result of the crimes
- They have information about the criminal activity and have been or will likely be helpful to law enforcement in their investigation or prosecution of the crime
- They are not otherwise inadmissible to the United States, such as for a previous criminal activity or visa overstay. In such a situation a waiver will be required.
The procedure for filing a U–visa petition
An applicant for a U–visa should file the Form I-918 petition as well as the Form I-918 Supplement, which contains a certification that must be completed by a law enforcement official. The petitioner must also include their own letter explaining their situation and the required supporting documents upon which their eligibility is based.
Any immigrant that has been a victim of a crime should speak with a caring and informed immigration attorney about the options which may be available.