In many instances, victims of crime live silently in the shadows. Their silence is the result of the fear instilled in them by the perpetrators of the crime which is exasperated if the victim is a foreign national.
In 2000, Congress passed a law known as the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA), which created two categories of non-immigrant visas, U visa for victims of certain crimes and T visas for victims of trafficking. In 2009, the government started issuing U status to victims of certain crimes, including rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation; being held hostage; peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping; abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes; or similar activity.
By creating the U status, Congress made it easier for victims of crime who are foreign nationals, to come forward with information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of criminals. The victims in return get the opportunity to legalize their immigration status, enabling them to be more productive in their communities. More than 117,500 victims and their family members have received U visas since the program began in 2009.
Law enforcement and victim advocate organizations throughout the country support the U program. It is puzzling then to understand why Congress limited the number of U classifications to 10,000 annually. Such an artificial cap potentially dilutes the incentive by victims to report criminal activity which is bad for everyone.
Unfortunately, USCIS just announced that the U status cap for fiscal year 2016 has already been reached. All the new cases and those already in the pipeline will continue to get adjudicated. All approvable cases subject to the cap will get a notice of their status in line. USCIS will resume issuing U status on October 1, 2016.
If you are a victim of a crime or have any questions pertaining to the U visa program, please call our LA office 323-857-0034 for a free evaluation of your case.