USCIS has announced that is has approved 10,000 U visas for fiscal year 2014. This announcement marks five years in a row that the USCIS has reached the statutory maximum allowed for U visas. USCIS will begin to issue U visas once again on October 1, 2014, the first day of fiscal year 2015.
This 10,000 cap was reached quite quickly into the 2014 fiscal year. In fact, it was the quickest that the cap has been reached since the U visa program began. While some advocates argue that this news is positive (it shows that the program is used), others advance the theory that it may be time for the government to raise the limit on how many U visas can be issued each year.
U visas were originally created in order to help victims of specific types of crimes who have suffered significant mental and/or physical abuse and who have agreed to help law enforcement with both the investigation and the prosecution of the crime. These qualified aliens are often referred to the U visa program by nonprofit organizations that provide legal aid or work with survivors of domestic violence.
Since the implementation of the U visa, in excess of 89,600 victims and family members have received U visa status. With the help of these individuals, prosecutors have been able to successfully investigate and convict criminals throughout the country. Therefore, this visa category has helped to promote public safety and welfare in many areas.
If and when the statutory cap of 10,000 U visas has been reached, USCIS will continue to evaluate and monitor the steady stream of U visa applicants who petition each year for this specific relief. While these petitioners may not receive U visas in the same year that they may have applied, USCIS will typically send a notification by mail to eligible applicants informing them that the cap has been reached, and that they have been placed on a waiting list.
The waiting list allows for the applicants to receive the visa once they have become available again for distribution. Typically, this notification sent to eligible U visa petitioners will also alert them as to what options are currently available to them while waiting for a U visa. While the applicants will receive a deferred status, they are often forced to wait several months for work authorization, and that can have a detrimental effect on the immigrant and his family.
Once the eligible applicant completes all the necessary requirements in order to receive a U visa and she has been granted the status, it will typically not last for more than four years. After four years have passed, the applicant may apply and receive an extension if proper certification has been issued by a law enforcement agency. This particular agency must be able to state that the alien's presence is necessary in order to help with the investigation or prosecution of a certain crime.
If you or a loved one is curious about the U visa program, contact my office here in Tucson. We can answer your questions and provide you with the help you need.