Nearly seven years after Congress passed a law authorizing visas for illegal immigrant crime victims, authorities announced Wednesday that the visas would finally be made available, reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued guidelines for the new visas, which are designated for certain victims who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes. The visas will enable the immigrants to work and live in the U.S. and to apply for permanent residency after three years. Ten thousand “U visas” will be available each year, along with visas for family members.
Immigrants are eligible for the visas if they were victims of such crimes as rape, kidnapping or false imprisonment. They will be able to seek the visas retroactively, authorities said. Peter Schey, who sued the Department of Homeland Security for failing to issue the visas, said he had been fighting for this for years on behalf of thousands of violent-crime victims and their families. “This is a particularly vulnerable population,” said Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles. “Immigrant crime victims are reluctant to come forward to cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of violent crimes because they fear deportation.”