U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved the statutory maximum 10,000 petitions for U nonimmigrant status (U visas) for fiscal year 2013. This marks the fourth straight year that USCIS has reached the statutory maximum since it began issuing U visas in 2008. Each year, 10,000 U visas are available for victims of crime who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute those crimes. A U-visa petition requires certification of assistance from law enforcement.
The U-visa program was created by Congress to strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes while also offering protection to victims. More than 76,000 victims and their family members have received U visas since the program was implemented.
USCIS will continue to accept U-visa petitions and process them in the order in which they are received. USCIS will resume issuing U visas on Oct. 1, 2013, the first day of fiscal year 2014 and is when visas will be available again.
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Below are Questions and Answers pertaining to U nonimmigrant visas.
Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes while, at the same time, offer protection to victims of such crimes. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
Q: How Does One Become Eligible for U Nonimmigrant Status?
A: There are four statutory eligibility requirements. The individual must:
- The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
- The individual must have information concerning that criminal activity.
- The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The criminal activity violated U.S. laws
Q: What Qualifies as “Criminal Activity”?
A: Qualifying criminal activity is defined as being an activity involving one or more activities that violate U.S. criminal law, including