U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved the statutory maximum 10,000 petitions for U-1 nonimmigrant status (U visas) for fiscal year 2014. This marks the fifth straight year that USCIS has reached the statutory maximum since it began issuing U visas in 2008.
Each year, 10,000 U visas are available for victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute those crimes. A U visa petition requires certification of assistance from law enforcement.
Congress created the U visa program to strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes, while also offering protection to victims. More than 89,600 victims and their family members have received U visas since the program was implemented in 2008.
Though USCIS has reached its statutory cap of 10,000 U visas, it will continue to review pending petitions for eligibility. USCIS will send a letter to all eligible petitioners who, due solely to the cap, are not granted U-1 visas, notifying them that they are on a waiting list to receive a U visa when visas again become available and what options they have in the interim. Petitioners and qualifying family members must continue to meet eligibility requirements at the time the U visa is issued.
USCIS will resume issuing U visas on Oct. 1, 2014, the first day of fiscal year 2015, when visas become available again.
USCIS indicated in a T/U/VAWA training today that they will be offering deferred action to U-visa applicants who are approved but for whom there is not a visa available. Those with deferred action will be able to apply for employment authorization while they are waiting for the U-visa issuance.