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Surge in U-Visa Requests Puts Safety of Immigrants on Hold

crime-u-visaThe US Citizenship and Immigration Service has not processed any U-Visa applications filed after December 2013. This type of visa is often provided to immigrants and their close family members who are victims of serious crimes. The surge in number of U-Visa requests has created a huge backlog of applications, increasing nearly fourfold over the last 5 years. Last year, 26,000 applications were filed against a yearly cap of just 10,000.  Presently, individuals are required to wait, just to get on the waiting list. With demand for the U-Visa far outpacing the yearly cap, protection of the victims and close family members has become a concern.

Rosa,15, became pregnant after she was repeatedly raped by her step father for more than a year. Rosa and her mother entered the Unites States illegally and had been living in Modesto, California for the past few years. She was dropped off in her native town in Tijuana by her step dad, where she had to fend for herself without her mother by her side. After pressing charges against her step father, who is currently on the run from Mexican authorities, Rosa and her family became eligible to apply for a U-Visa.

Today, like so many other immigrants, Rosa, along with her new-born child, is looking forward to reuniting with her mother. But the recent increase in the number of U-Visa applications means she might have to wait for years before she is allowed to set foot on US soil again.  While immigration authorities have started allotting temporary work permits to people on the waiting list, only immigrants applying for U-Visas from the US are eligible.

The U-Visa program was introduced by the Congress in 2000 as part of the Violence Protection Act and Victims of Trafficking Act. The objective of the program was to help immigrants who were victims of violent crimes but scared to reach out to the police for fear of being deported.  To qualify for the program, an immigrant must be considered the victim of a serious crime. He or she is also required to provide certification from a credited law enforcement agency, which attests to the individual having helped or presently being helpful during the investigation.

Immigration lawyers are calling on Congress to increase the annual cap on U-Visas for immigrants. Asistant Co-Director Glen Pendleton recently stated, “Family members abroad desperately need to reunite with the primary crime victim, and the crime victim needs family support to heal and build a new life.”

Do you need advice on immigration law in Texas? If so, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Lyttle Law Firm.  We’re based in Austin Texas and well versed in all aspects of immigration. Call us today at 512-215-5225.