According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 10 000 people have received the U visa for Fiscal Year 2012. The visa is available for those who have been the victims of crime and who assist law enforcement authorities with the investigation and solution of the crime. The visa was first introduced in 2008 and since then over 60 000 people have been granted the visa, which has a cap of 10 000 visas per year.
The aim of the visa is to help those who have suffered a crime in the US get legal status to stay in the US. This helps the victim rebuild their life after a serious crime. The U visa is often used in cases of domestic abuse or in cases of human trafficking, where someone enters the US and becomes the victim of a crime but may not necessarily want to or be able to return home right away.
Before the U visa, persecuting crimes against immigrants was difficult. In some cases there were language barriers or some fear on the part of immigrants in speaking with police. In cases of domestic abuse or human trafficking, especially, victims were often afraid of the repercussions of speaking to law enforcement, worried that abusers would harm them. The U visa solves some of these problems. With a U visa, the victim can remain in the US with their own status. This means that if they entered the US because they were engaged to a US citizen but the relationship became abusive, they no longer have to rely on their fiancé(e) or a fiancé(e) visa to remain in the US. The U visa also makes it easier for immigrants to speak to police. Speaking to police can actually help the victim get a visa, so that they are more willing to speak with authorities. According to police agencies, the visa helps them get cooperation from the immigrant community, which in turn helps police solve crimes.
This is the third year that the USCIS has granted all 10 000 U visas that are the maximum number for the visa each year. Applicants can still apply for the U visa. New U visas will be available as of October 1 of this year.
While proponents of the U visa claim that the visa helps law enforcement and crime victims alike, there are critics of the visa. Some allege that the U visa helps people perpetrate immigration fraud. For example, they claim that in some cases a fraudster can become engaged to a US citizen to get citizenship status and then make false allegations of abuse in order to secure a U visa. This allows the fraudster to leave the US spouse but still enjoy all the benefits of the U visa and, eventually, citizenship. Supporters of the visa, however, note that the visa helps protect crime victims and helps keep the country safer for everyone. They also note that fraud is possible with any immigration policy and there is no evidence to suggest that the U visa is more prone to fraud than other visas.