In 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act to protect immigrant crime victims who otherwise would not go to the police out of fear they would be deported. It was seven years later before USCIS finalized regulations to implement the law and two years after that before the first visas were approved. These visas, known as U nonimmigrant visas or simply U-visas, grant nonimmigrant status to allow immigrant victims of crime to live and work in the U.S. if they come forward and help police to investigate and prosecute the criminals. The number of applications for U-visas has grown every year, and the current number of petitions far outstrips the number of visas available. Petitioners must be patient and also do everything they can to make sure their application is in order to avoid having their application further delayed or denied.
Even the Backlog has a Backlog
The number of U-visas which can be issued in a given year is capped at 10,000. In 2009, 6,835 petitions were received. The next year, the number was just over 10,000. Last year, in 2014, 26,023 petitions were turned in. The backlog at USCIS is currently so great that the agency is not even looking at applications filed after December 2013. Some people who have been approved for visas may still have to wait a year or more because the number of petitions has so far outpaced the number of visas available.
A push was made in the last legislative session in Congress to increase the cap to 15,000, plus expand the program to include another 3,000 U-visas for people who have been victimized or exploited in the workplace but are scared to come forward for fear of deportation. This measure, Senate Bill 744, passed the Senate in June 2013 but never made it out of the House Judiciary committee.
Legal Help is Available
Even though the number of U-visa petitions is backed up right now, you should still consider applying if you qualify, because you never know when Congress may increase the cap. Meanwhile, petitions continue to come in and be placed in priority order, so the sooner you apply, the sooner you may be able to receive a visa. Other options may be available as well, such as Green Cards for victims of domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If you are afraid of confronting your abuser or going to the authorities, contact The Lozano Law Firm, LLC for a confidential consultation. With offices in San Antonio and San Angelo, we serve clients throughout the state of Texas and across the United States.