Congress created the U non-immigrant in 2000 to protect non-citizen victims of crime, regardless of their immigration status. The requirements for granting a U visa encourages them to cooperate with law enforcement officials. Regrettably, there is a limit of 10,000 U visas available per fiscal year.
USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, recently published statistics on it U Visa programs. These statistic crystalizes the enormous delays in resolving these cases and the increasing back log.
These statistics show that in the year 2009, the USCIS received a total of 10,937 petitions and approved 8,663, Statistically 79% was approved. In the year 2017, they received 61,686 and approved 17, 726. A 28.7 % approval rate. Along with this decrease in approval rates, there are currently 208, 813 pending cases as of the end of the 2nd Quarter of 2018. Extrapolating from the most recent yearly approval numbers (2017) of 17,726, it appears that it would take some 11 to 12 years for the USCIS to catch up on its work load. It’s no wonder that its taking years for U visa applicants to obtain their first work permit
QUALIFYING CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
While an applicant is approved for a U visa and is in line for a visa, s/he is eligible to apply for a work permit. Under the new guidance, USCIS advises that applicants submit two Applications for Employment Authorization (I-765) with any U visa petition. The first application would give the U visa petitioner work authorization for two years under the deferred action status. The second application would give work authorization to the U visa petitioner for the duration of the U visa, once a U visa becomes available.
A work permit application based on an application for U-Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918) cannot be approved until the application has been reviewed and the individual has been granted deferred action. This has been taking roughly 3.5 years recently.
According to the USCIS, from the date of receipt of the U visa application, it can take about 46 months to process the case.
It’s important to appreciate that this type of application is different from other work permit applications. This is so, because of the U Visa cap of 10,000 per fiscal year, has created a large back log as noted above. But even if there is not a visa available for a case to be approved, USCIS can grant that person “deferred action” which is similar to permission to remain in the United States. It also makes that person eligible for a work permit. It is at this juncture, that a work permit application will be approved. A work permit application should be submitted simultaneously with the original I-918 application.
The U visa category is truly a life save for undocumented aliens that were victims of a crime and cooperated with the authorities to imprison the perpetrator(s), albeit the process takes a long time.
A most important part of the U visa program is that those granted the U visa may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (adjustment of status/permanent residence) if you meet certain requirements, including:
- You have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years while in U nonimmigrant status, and
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.
- NOTE CAREFULLY: Any qualifying family member who does not have a derivative U visa when the principal U non-immigrant receives a Green Card is no longer eligible for a derivative U visa, but may still be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence.