For fiscal year 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) again approved the statutory maximum of 10,000 petitions for U-1 nonimmigrant status (U visas). This marks the seventh straight year that USCIS has reached its statutory maximum.
The U visa is available to certain immigrant crime victims who assisted law enforcement to investigate or prosecute those crimes. Among other requirements, the U visa petition requires a signature from law enforcement certifying that the potential U visa applicant was indeed helpful in the investigation of criminal activity. After obtaining the required certification, the applicant may then petition USCIS for U-1 nonimmigrant status. Each year, USCIS may approve up to 10,000 U visa petitions.
Although excellent news overall that the government again approved the statutory maximum number of U visa petitions, this means that USCIS will place all of the unadjudicated petitions on a waiting list. And the wait is long. We currently have clients who have been waiting over one year for USCIS to adjudicate their petitions.
Fortunately, at some point during the wait list process, USCIS will conduct a preliminary adjudication of the petition and send a letter to eligible applicants notifying them that they have been “pre-approved” for U visa status and will receive a U visa when visas again become available.
USCIS will resume issuing U visas on October 1, 2016, the first day of fiscal year 2017.
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