Good news to U visa petitioners and their relatives who are residing abroad. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has agreed to allow them to apply for a parole to facilitate their entry to the United States while waiting for their visa to become available.
This new policy of the USCIS was in response to the recommendations by the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, Maria Odom, regarding U visa petitioners on the waiting list, specifically those who are abroad. The Ombudsman said that such a parole policy would ensure timely family reunification for victims of certain crimes committed in the United States.
The Ombudsman also recommended that the said parole policy should allow the concurrent filing of the U visa petition and the request for parole. Finally, the Ombudsman recommended that U visa parole cases be adjudicated by the USCIS Vermont Service Center.
The Ombudsman had stressed that certain crime victims who are eligible for U visa and their qualifying family members, especially those residing abroad or who went back to their home countries had not received the full protection of the law. The U visa is capped at 10,000 annually and every fiscal year since 2009, it has been reached so certain U visa eligible individuals had to be placed on the waiting list.
U visa petitioners and their qualifying family members who are here in the US can receive deferred action and get work permits, but their counterparts abroad are not given the same due consideration. Those abroad have to go through the Humanitarian Affairs branch of the USCIS, and this bureaucratic process has not been effective in some cases.
The Ombudsman is hopeful that the new policy would translate to better cooperation from U visa holders in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activities for which they suffered substantial mental or physical abuse.
The U visa is a temporary visa that is valid for up to four years subject to extension based on certain conditions. Once given a U visa, the holder is allowed to work legally here in the US so that he/she will be able to support himself/herself while the case is ongoing. The U visa can also benefit certain qualifying family members like their spouses, parents, children and unmarried siblings below 18 years of age who may apply to come to the US and be reunited with them.
It is granted to victims of certain criminal activities which occurred in the United States, US territory or US military installation. Among the requisites to be granted said visa is the possession of vital information necessary to prosecute the crime and the victim’s cooperation with law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes.
Congress listed the following qualifying crimes for one to be eligible to obtain a U visa: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes which includes any similar activity where the elements of the crimes are substantially similar. It also includes the attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the aforesaid crimes.
(Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For more information, log on to www.seguritan.com or call 212-695-5281.)