U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved 10, 000 U visas for fiscal year 2012, reaching the statutory maximum for the visas. This is the third straight year that the USCIS has reached its statutory maximum for the U visas. Since 2008, over 61,000 have been granted U visas. The agency is pleased with the results, since the U visa is intended to strengthen law enforcement efforts and to provide help for victims of crimes.
The U visa was first issued in 2008 and it allows those who have suffered significant physical or mental abuse to remain in the US under the U visa. Each year, 10, 000 of the visas are available. To be eligible for the visa, an applicant must have suffered significant abuse and must be willing to work with authorities to help solve, investigate, and prosecute the crimes. Those who apply for the visa must provide law enforcement certification to show that they reported the crime and have cooperated with police and other law enforcement in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
According to the USCIS, the U visa is important because it protects victims of crimes and ensures cooperation of the immigrant community when it comes to crime investigation. In many cases, police need victim cooperation to help solve cases of abuse, human trafficking, and other crimes. In the past, immigrant communities have sometimes been reluctant to cooperate with police, fearing deportation and other legal problems. With the U visa, victims of crimes can step forward safely and can help police put perpetrators behind bars. Critics of the visa category, however, have claimed that the U visa encourages some people to exaggerate or make up abuse claims in order to remain in the US.
The US has recently increased its outreach and education efforts, hoping to inform more people about the U visa. As a result, USCIS officers have spoken to over 40 cities across the US in order to communicate with immigration organizations and law enforcement agencies about the U visa category. The aim of the talks is to encourage immigration organizations and law enforcement agencies to inform eligible immigrants about the U visa.
The first day of fiscal year 2013 is 1 October 2012. This is the day when new U visas will be available. Until then, eligible applicants can continue to submit U visa applications. However, they will not be able to obtain a visa until new visas become available in October. Applicants can learn more about this and other visa categories at the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.