U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved the statutory maximum of 10,000 petitions for U-1 nonimmigrant status (U visas) for fiscal year 2016. This marks the seventh straight year that USCIS has reached the statutory maximum since it began issuing U visas in 2009.
Each year, 10,000 U visas are available for victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute those crimes. A U visa petition requires certification that the victim has been helpful to law enforcement.
Although USCIS has reached the statutory cap of 10,000 U visas, it will continue to review pending petitions for eligibility. For eligible petitioners who cannot be granted a U-1 visa solely because of the cap, USCIS will send a letter notifying them that they are on a waiting list to receive a U visa when visas become available again. The letter will also inform the petitioners of options available to them while they are on the waiting list. Petitioners and qualifying family members must continue to meet eligibility requirements at the time the U visa is issued.
USCIS will resume issuing U visas on October 1, 2016, the first day of fiscal year 2017, when visas become available again.
Congress created the U visa program to strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes, while also offering protection to victims. More than 117,579 victims and their family members have received U visas since the program began in 2009.