On May 16, 2016, a number of agencies and law firms sent a letter to DHS Director Jeh Johnson to express concern about the growing backlog for U Visas. The letter, signed by 307 separate organizations, outlines in detail the problem the work stoppage is creating for victims of serious crimes.
The U visa was created to help crime victims come out of the shadows by giving them work authorization and alleviating the fear of talking to police and immigration officials when a person has been victimized but lacks immigration status. But in the last year the processing of new U Visa applications has almost completely stopped.
The chart in this letter demonstrates what we’ve been saying for months: there has been no movement on U Visas in over a year:
For some reason the “currently processing” date has been the same since May, 2015 and shows no signs of changing in the near future. And the delay has only grown longer in 2016. Meanwhile, it appears other applications we file with the VAWA Unit at the Vermont Service Center (like adjustments of status for U Visa holders and VAWA Self-Petitions) are regularly receiving requests for evidence asking for documents the USCIS already has or which are not necessary.
Only 10,000 U Visas can be granted each year by the USCIS. That limit was put in place by Congress and cannot be changed by the President. Currently there are about 75,000 U Visas pending at the Vermont Service Center. But that doesn’t account for the backlog, because USCIS isn’t working on all 75,000 files at the same time. Actually, the processing dates show USCIS isn’t working on much at all, because in the last two years the “current processing” date has only moved forward by about two months.
USCIS hasn’t offered much explanation for the apparent work stoppage. However, hopefully this letter will lead the USCIS to act quickly to resolve the slow-down, as many who are waiting for their U Visa applications are in desperate need of stability so that they can put their life back in order after being the victim of a serious violent crime.