Our firm has recently represented several individuals in their applications for U Visas. The U visa is a unique benefit that provides work authorization and a path to citizenship for aliens who have been victims of a qualifying criminal activity in the United States. The list of covered crimes includes domestic violence, felonious assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, incest, manslaughter, murder, and other similar activities. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS ) recently reported that about 75% of U visas are based on domestic violence or sexual assault crimes.
The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental harm or abuse as a result of the qualifying crime, and must be helpful or likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation of the crime. For many U visa applicants, meeting this criteria can be difficult as many have either entered the U.S. illegally, overstayed a valid visa, or have prior orders of removal. They are therefore often afraid to report certain crimes or be too involved in the investigative process. The existence of the U visa demonstrates how important it is that all people feel protected by our local law enforcement, especially when faced with difficult situations, such as being victimized by criminals.
There is a statutory cap of 10,000 U visas that may be issued during each fiscal year. For the last five (5) years, the number of applications and approvals have far exceeded the number of visas. In fact, the FY 2014 cap was reached within two months. New visas for primary applicants will not be issued again until October 1, 2014, the beginning of the next fiscal year. The good news for applicants is that despite the current unavailability of U visas, USCIS continues to review applications in the order in which they are received. If approvable, the applicant is placed on a waitlist and given deferred action or parole, which allows the applicant to apply for work authorization while awaiting availability of the U visa.
We have been fortunate to be able to assist several clients in this application process. For example, one applicant was the victim of an attempted sexual assault while she was at work. Another received stab wounds and other injuries while trying to protect a friend in a domestic violence situation. USCIS has determined that both cases are approvable and they are currently on the waitlist to receive U visas once they become available. Another client received her U visa before the cap was reached. She had been traumatized after being robbed at gunpoint while in her store alone with her young daughter. We applaud these individuals for having the courage to face their attackers and confront memories they would rather forget. It has been a pleasure for us to assist them in achieving a favorable outcome and we look forward to continuing to help them gain permanent residency and citizenship in the future.
Disclaimer: Every legal matter is different. The outcome of each legal case depends upon many factors, including the facts of the case, and no attorney can guarantee a positive result in any particular case. Any testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.