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All crime-victim U visas available until Oct. 2014 already issued

Each fiscal year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has authority from Congress to issue up to 10,000 U-1 nonimmigrant visas to victims of certain crimes. These are people who have suffered serious mental abuse yet are still willing to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. This is an extremely valuable resource for police, because crime victims often fear coming forward due to immigration issues.

When Congress limited the annual total of U-1 visas to 10,000, however, it probably didn’t expect that number of applicants to be approved in the first three months of the USCIS’s fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Yet, since Oct. 1, the agency has already issued all of the available visas for the 2014 fiscal year.

U-visa applicants must be victims of serious, traumatic crimes such as domestic violence, sexual exploitation or involuntary servitude, and their willingness to assist law enforcement must be certified on the application. It’s frightening to thing we have so many applicants.

Luckily, the U visa is not the only way immigrant crime victims can get help. There are a number of programs available through the USCIS that offer assistance to victims of serious crimes and domestic abuse or neglect, and each of them allows you to apply later for permanent residency.

The most well-known is the Violence Against Women Ac. The law was meant to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Many people depend on the legal status of a husband, parent or other family member in order to legally remain in the U.S. When a current or former spouse, child or parent in such a situation is the victim domestic battery or extreme cruelty, he or she can apply for a green card through the Violence Against Women Act.

Another program is available for victims of human trafficking. The T nonimmigrant visa was especially created to help those were brought to the U.S. through human trafficking and who would suffer substantial harm if deported.

Minors who have been abandoned, or taken from their parents by courts due to abuse or neglect, may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. This program is available to unmarried people under 21 whose cases were adjudicated by state courts.

If you are a crime victim, or if you’re afraid you’ll be deported if you leave an abuser, please ask for legal advice. There are real options available.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services news release, “USCIS Approves 10,000 U Visas for 5th Straight Fiscal Year,” Dec. 11, 2013

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