USCIS Hits Cap for U Visas

U Visa

USCIS announced last week that it has hit the 10,000 cap for U visa applicants for fiscal year 2013. The fiscal year runs from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014, so this means the cap was hit in less than three months. The cap has been hit each year since the U visa regulations were first issued in fiscal year 2008, but this is by far the quickest it has happened, illustrating the need for Congress to take action to increase the number of approvals available to meet the demand.

At first glance, this is terrible news for U visa petitioners, because it means that no new principal U visas will be issued until October 2014 at the very earliest. It will also contribute to the backlog of U visas and ensure that the cap will be hit almost immediately after the new visas are released next year. This will leave thousands of qualified applicants in limbo for months and possibly even years, as they await a decision on their case.

There’s a silver lining, however. Though USCIS cannot issue official approval notices for any new principal U visas until the new fiscal year begins, they will continue to adjudicate applications and provide tentative approval notices for individuals who qualify. These tentative approval letters can be used to apply for a status called “deferred action,” which is the same status granted to DACA (the “Dream Act” executive order passed by President Obama to halt deportations of young people who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and who meet other requirements) applicants. Individuals in deferred action status can apply for work authorization, which is the major concern for many applicants who are undocumented and awaiting U visas anyway.

Therefore, the fact that the cap has been reached so quickly should not deter anyone from pursuing the U visa. Instead, it should motivate people who think they may qualify to apply immediately, in order to secure a place in the long line of U visa applications that is sure to increase in the coming years. If you think you may qualify for a U visa application, contact a DC immigration attorney for a case evaluation.