Tuesday, December 29, 2015
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that for the 7th straight fiscal year, the agency has met its statutory cap of issuing 10,000 U visas (for survivors of certain criminal activity who demonstrate a requisite level of helpfulness to law enforcement). USCIS will begin issuing U visas again on October 1, 2016 and will continue its practice of reviewing applications and placing applicants on a wait list until an actual visa becomes available, while offering deferred action and employment authorization to individuals on the wait list. Advocates report that the most recently issued U visas are going to applicants who filed their applications over two years ago, around the end of October 2013. This Los Angeles Times article from February 2015 describes the nature and ramifications of the U visa backlog - which include prolonging separation of family members and undermining the goal of encouraging undocumented crime victims to cooperate with law enforcement - in more detail.
One very concrete fix that Congress could make would involve raising the statutory cap for principal U visas, or placing the annual allocation of U visas in the hands of the executive branch.