Illegal immigrants who are victims of violent crimes in the U.S. may apply for special visas, seven years after Congress offered protection against deportation to those who cooperate with law enforcement agencies, the Associated Press reports. The 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act established the visa to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes against them in return for the right to remain in the U.S. and apply for permanent residency.
The law authorized up to 10,000 “U” visas every year. The visas are good for up to four years, and visa holders who are in the U.S. continuously for three years can apply for permanent residency. “I would much prefer that we used it as a temporary visa, not an immigrant visa — something that allowed a person to testify but didn’t give them the jackpot of a green card,” said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limits on immigration. Since the law was passed, 8,301 petitioners and their families have been granted interim relief from deportation while awaiting publication of the “U” visa rules.