Late last fall, I wrote about how U visas were gone for 2014. Now again, USCIS has run out of U visas.
The government fiscal year begins on October 1st. That means that fiscal year 2015 is from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015. When Congress created the U visa, they made it so only 10,000 visas were available per fiscal year. We call this a “cap.”
Each year, USCIS runs out of U visas faster and faster. For fiscal year 2014, the cap was reached on December 13, 2013. For fiscal year 2015, which just began this past October 1st, USCIS has reached the cap immediately.
Over 10,000 applicants were on the wait list from fiscal year 2014 and they received all of the visas allowed for fiscal year 2015. That’s right, there are already no U visas available until October 1, 2015 when fiscal 2016 starts.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply for a U visa if you are eligible. It also doesn’t mean that cases are just sitting and collecting dust. USCIS is still reviewing U cases and making provisional decisions.
For the cases that are approvable, but can’t be approved because of the cap being reached, USCIS is putting applicants on a wait list and granting them deferred action in the meantime. This allows people to obtain a work card and provides them with some legal status while waiting for U visas to become available again.
Not every case that was put on the wait list between December 13, 2013 and September 30, 2014 will get granted a U visa this year. Some people who were provisionally approved may still have to wait yet another year before officially being granted U status.
It appears that the wait list is prioritized by the date that an applicant filed for U status, not by the date approved. USCIS has not announced the official cut-off date for U approvals.
Currently there are over 30,000 U cases pending with USCIS. Of course, not every case will be approved, but even if 1/3 of them are denied, we already have a wait list that will cover two years. U applications will continue to be filed and the wait will continue to get longer and longer.
The U visa is a wonderful visa, but the cap on how many can be granted each year makes it unnecessarily difficult for immigrants to get the status they are eligible for, to move forward with their lives, and it delays their ability to be reunited with the families.