U Visa Limit Reached for Sixth Straight Year25 Feb 2015
For fiscal year 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved 10,000 U petitions, which is the maximum number of U visas available each year. The U visa is a category reserved for qualifying foreign nationals who are victims of certain types of crimes. This is the sixth year in a row that the USCIS has approved the full allotment of 10,000 U visa cases.
Annual 10,000 Quota of U Visas for Crime Victims
The U visa was created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. To potentially qualify for one of the 10,000 U visas available each fiscal year, a foreign national must have “…suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim” of a qualifying crime, and the individual must be willing to help law enforcement in investigating and/or prosecuting the perpetrator/s of the crime. Since the program was implemented in 2008, more than 116,000 victims and their respective family members have received benefits under the U program. The Murthy Law Firm previously discussed the U visa category in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, DOL to Certify U Visa Applications (02.Apr.2010).
DOL Expands Crimes Eligible for U Visa Certification
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is adding three new qualifying criminal activities – extortion, forced labor, and fraud in labor contracting – that can be used as the basis for a foreign national to request U visa certification from the DOL. Obtaining certification is a critical part of the U visa petition process. With these additions, the number of individuals who may qualify for a U visa is expected to increase, adding to the wait times for new petitioners.
USCIS Processing on U Visas Continues after Quota Limit
Even after the annual 10,000 U visa limit is reached, the USCIS will continue to review new and pending U visa petitions. If the USCIS determines that a petition is approvable, but that the U visa cap has been reached for that particular year, the USCIS will notify the petitioner that the case has been placed on a waitlist. Such a case can then be approved the following fiscal year, which begins each October 1st.
In addition to providing welcome relief to foreign nationals in the United States who are victims of crimes, the U visa program also helps law enforcement in its efforts to investigate and prosecute lawbreakers. The efforts by the DOL to expand eligibility for the program, as well as the work by the USCIS to ensure the full allowance of U visas are issued each year, are to be commended. The Murthy Law Firm will continue to track changes to the U visa program and provide updates as information becomes available.
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