USCIS Approves 10,000 U Visas for 5th Straight Year

USCIS has already approved the statutory maximum cap of 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 its inception in 2008.  The reasons the cap has been met so quickly are USCIS has added additional staff members, and there has been an increased number of U visa applications.

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.  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 aid law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute those crimes. The U visa petition itself requires certification of assistance from the relevant law enforcement or district attorneys’ office.  More than 89,600 victims and their family members have received U visas since the program was implemented.

Although USCIS has reached its statutory cap of 10,000 U visas for this 2014 fiscal year, 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.  Those on the wait list will be the first to receive the new U visas in fiscal year 2015.

USCIS will resume issuing U visas on Oct. 1, 2014, and an additional 10,000 visas will become available.  In the meantime, USCIS will inform eligible petitioners on the waitlist that they are able to receive a work permit while waiting.  Please contact our office if you have any questions about whether you qualify for an employment authorization card while waiting for the next fiscal year of U visas.