As October winds down, let’s take a moment to think about what the month means. While it can mean baseball and hayrack rides, for those of us who work with immigrant victims of violence, we also think about the new fiscal year and a new batch of 10,000 visas becoming available for our clients. October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month, which is a coincidence, but it does add to the meaningfulness of the month since many U status applicants, at least in at Klinke Immigration, are domestic violence survivors.
Recently, the Vermont Service Center (VSC) held an Open House where they shared a lot of great information with us about their numbers and processes regarding U applications. I’d like to share some key information with you.
In September 2016, there were 140,000 U applications pending, including both principal and derivative petitions. Each month, between 8,000 and 10,000 new applications are filed and there are only 175 adjudicators at the VSC who are trained on this type of specialized work. The backlog of cases has been incredible – for the past two years, it felt as though no new U filings had been adjudicated. The posted processing times had been stuck in May 2014. And now, finally, the posted processing times have moved forward a wee bit – all the way to June 2014. It’s not much, but it’s progress. Perhaps with the Nebraska Service Center taking on cases now, we’ll start seeing even more progress. I remain hopeful.
Currently, there are 24,000 individuals, again, both principals and derivatives, on the waitlist. VSC said that they hope that for FY2017, that between 10,000 and 18,000 people will be removed from the waitlist. Although not set in stone, we anticipate that applicants on the waitlist, who filed their applications between May 2013 and February 2014 should be taken off the waitlist and granted U status.
For FY2017, we are expecting changes to the U approval process. In the past, those who were going to be taken off the waitlist and granted U status would be notified between October and December and have their status backdated to October 1st. This year, U status will be granted in three stages throughout the year, so that the adjudicators will not be overwhelmed at one time. The grant date will not be backdated, either. This means that those who are granted U status this year could hear about their approvals as late as July 2017.
So, there’s the update on U status for now. Thank you to AILA, ASISTA, and other great organizations who asked the tough questions and shared the answers with us.