As of October 2018, the current processing time for a U Visa, a special visa given to victims of crime, is four years. This article goes over the reason for the long backlog and guides you on how and when to can apply for a work permit while you wait.
What Is the U Visa?
The U Visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa for victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The U Visa was created in October 2000 with the intention to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting the victims of these crimes. Congress allows for the issue of 10,000 U Visas each year.
How Long Is the U Visa Processing Time?
In the first years, the U Visa was not well known and so the processing time was short, only a matter of a few months. However, with time, the visa became better known by law enforcement agencies and within the legal profession, which in turn made it more popular among immigrants. More awareness led to more applicants, causing a backlog.
As the U Visa has become more popular, the number of visas issued every year has remained at 10,000. As of October 2018, they are only reviewing cases from October 2014. That means it's taking almost four years just to review a case.
In general, I don’t recommend travelling while you have a pending I-485 application. No matter the reason for your travel and regardless of whether you have a travel document, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be allowed to reenter the country. Here’s an example that demonstrates this risk.
Getting a Work Permit While Your U Visa Application Is Pending
In the time that your case is under review, you do not qualify for a work permit. Only when a decision has been made on your case, when it is approved, do you qualify. At this time, you will get a letter from the USCIS stating that your case was approved. However, because the USCIS only issues 10,000 visas each year, you will likely still have to wait for your visa.
While you wait for your visa to be issued, you will be in an immigration status called “deferred action.” This means that even though you do not technically have a legal immigration status, you are not a priority for deportation. It also means that you qualify for work authorization and can apply for a work permit with USCIS Form I-765.
A work permit allows you to get a social security number and begin a fuller life in the United States. It’s the same social security number you get to keep as a resident and later if you decide to become a citizen. It allows you to start forming your social security credit and is the one you will use on your taxes.
Immigration Help: U Visa Processing & Work Permit
If you have any questions about U Visa processing and work permits, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.
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