On December 29, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it had issued the statutory maximum of 10,000 U nonimmigrant approvals (U Visas) for Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016). Congress has set an annual statutory maximum of 10,000 available U Visas for qualified applicants. For the seventh (7th) straight year in a row, USCIS has reached the annual limit of 10,000 within the fiscal year; this year within 60 days of the commencement of the fiscal year.
U nonimmigrant status is available for victims of certain types of crimes in the United States, if the victim has assisted in the detection, investigation or prosecution of the crime; and the victim has suffered significant emotional or physical harm as a result of his or her victimization. In order to receive U nonimmigrant status in the United States, the crime victim must first obtain a certification from law enforcement that he or she was helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The crime victim then submits an application for U nonimmigrant status to USCIS along with extensive documentation and evidence of his or her eligibility.
USCIS will consider the application, and if the Agency determines that the Applicant meets the criteria for U nonimmigrant status and there are sufficient U visas available, it will issue the Applicant an approval of U nonimmigrant status.
If there are no U Visa numbers available due to the statutory limit, the Agency will notify the Applicant that he or she has established eligibility for U nonimmigrant status but that the Agency cannot grant the U nonimmigrant status at that time. The Agency will then grant the Applicant Deferred Action for a period of one or two years, which allows the individual to remain in the United States and receive an Employment Authorization Document.
The Applicant’s case is then placed in a queue of cases awaiting issuance of the U nonimmigrant status, and when the next Fiscal Year begins, if the Applicant is within the first 10,000 approvals in the queue, he or she will receive an approval notice granting U nonimmigrant status. Those that are not within the next 10,000 in the queue will remain on Deferred Action until a U visa number becomes available.
Due to a significant increase in the number of U Nonimmigrant Applications in recent years, individuals with pending U Nonimmigrant cases or U nonimmigrant cases that have received a tentative approval and Deferred Action should be prepared to wait several years before they receive the U nonimmigrant status approval from USCIS.
For more information on U nonimmigrant status, processing times and U Nonimmigrant/Deferred Action, please contact Kolko & Associates, P.C.