Bad news for the end of 2016. If you were hoping for movement in the U visa processing date, you’re out of luck.
I’ve been writing about the backlog in U-Visa processing for almost two years now. The processing of U Visas has ground to an almost complete halt, and the USCIS has not explained why. Of course, the USCIS can only issue 10,000 U-visas each year. But that’s not the reason for the current slow-down. And now thousands of people are waiting for their U Visas to be processed, often in situations that are quite dire.
No Movement in U Visa Processing
This morning, unfortunately, the USCIS has updated its current processing times for U Visas, and it has moved forward by just one month in the last year.
One year ago, in December, 2015, the USCIS said it was processing U Visas that were filed in May, 2014:
That means in the last calendar year they have gotten through one month of U Visa applications.
In March, 2016 the USCIS released its annual statistics for 2015, which showed that the U visa backlog was growing not solely because of a boom in new applications but also because the USCIS had dramatically lengthened the time it took to process U Visas.
In May, 2016 the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a number of other advocacy groups pressured the USCIS to improve its processing of U Visas. In its letter, AILA included a list of the current processing dates dating back to April, 2015, showing that it hadn’t markedly improved in over a year:
But the pressure doesn’t seem to have worked. For a U visa filed today, the total wait time (just comparing the current processing date to today’s date) is 30 months. But if nothing changes with the rate at which the USCIS processes U visas, it easily could be double or triple that.
So What Can You Do?
1. If there is an emergency, request that the USCIS expedite your application
I wrote a longer explanation of this process here. Technically it’s possible to request the USCIS to expedite any benefit application if you truly have an emergency. But with perhaps 100,000 U visas pending presently (we won’t know the exact number until the 2016 fourth quarter numbers are released) they obviously can’t expedite every U visa application or even most U visa applications.
If you meet the expedite criteria, there is no harm in seeking to expedite a U visa request, although there is a right way and a wrong way to request this (more on this later).
2. Keep checking the processing times, and keep your address updated.
Anyone can check the current USCIS processing times at this page by selecting “Vermont Service Center.” If you move, it is also absolutely, fundamentally important that you change your address with USCIS.
You can also contact your Congressperson or Senator and make sure they know that the U Visa is a necessary component of our current immigration law but needs to be vastly improved. It is a visa designed to protect the most vulnerable populations and to assist law enforcement officers to more effectively fight crime. The statutory cap is far too low, and the USCIS should be compelled by Congress to prioritize visa options designed to benefit vulnerable populations.
Have I missed anything? Feel free to post your questions in the Comments below and I’ll try to respond if I know the answer.