Yesterday, August 21, 2012, the USCS announced that they had reached the statutory maximum for issuing U visas, capped at 10,000 annually. Congress created the U visa with the passing of the Victims of Traficking and Violence Protectin Act in 2000. In 2008, the USCIS began issuing the U visas and yesterday marked the third straight year in a row that the Agency hit the 10,000 statutory maximum. The U visa is a very important tool to not only help victims of crimes and abuse, but to also advoctae crime enforcement in the U.S.
In order to qualify for the U visa, the following conditions must be met (reproduced from USCIS.gov):
1. The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
2. The individual must have information concerning that criminal activity.
3. The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
4. The criminal activity violated U.S. laws.
The U visa petition must also be accompanied by a certification of helpfulness from a certifying US agency. The purpose of the certificate is to ascertain that the victim has, is, or will be helpful in aiding in the investigation or prosecution of a criminal activity. Once approved, status under the U visa is good for 4 years, with an opportunity for extension if the victim receives certification from a certifying agency that their presence is further needed to ain the investiation or prosecution of a criminal activity. Those who receive a U visa may also receive direvative status for their family members. Currently there is no filing fee for the U visa petition, reflecting the humanitarian purpose of the law that created the visa.
Since its creation, over 61,000 victims and their family members have received the U visa. The USCIS will currently still accept U visa petitions as they receive them and will resume procssing them in the new 2013 fiscal year, starting on October 12, 2012.