Recent changes in the way U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes U nonimmigrant visas make it difficult to know how long it may take. Even so, there is likely to be a significant wait to learn whether your immigration case is approved or denied.
The application for a U visa is Form I-918. According to the USCIS website, this form is currently only being processed by two service centers: the Nebraska Service Center and the Vermont Service Center. Read on to learn more about how long you may have to wait to get legal status.
The Recent Change in Processing Eliminates the Wait List
In June 2021, USCIS altered the way they handle U visas. Instead of using a waitlist, they now use a process called Bona Fide Determination (BFD). This should, in theory, allow them to process many more petitions and make decisions more efficiently. This could mean less wait time to receive employment authorization and deferred action status.
As of February 2022, the USCIS website is not listing the current processing time of Form I-918. This is because there have not been enough U visas processed to get an accurate feeling of how long it will take to learn a decision through the BFD process.
Before the implementation of BFD, the time from filing Form I-918 to being put on the waiting list to determination averaged 60.5 to 61 months—yes, that’s more than five years spent waiting on official approval of your petition.
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While You Wait for Processing
There is nothing you need to do during the wait time for your U visa processing. USCIS will notify you of any actions you need to take. You can continue to check your status online and keep an eye on your email and mail.
What Is a U Visa?
If you are not familiar with U nonimmigrant status—U visa—it may be an option for getting legal status, approval to work, and other benefits for those who witnessed certain crimes and helped the police with solving the case.
This usually involves providing key testimony in a case involving a serious crime. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists categories of crimes that could meet this standard. In general, the requirements for getting a U visa include:
- Being a victim or witness of a qualifying crime
- The crime occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws
- Enduring physical or psychological injuries
- Aiding police with the case
U visa recipients receive deferred action and can remain in the United States without fear of removal. They can also petition for a green card. Immediate family members may also qualify to get a derivative U visa.
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You Could Hire an Attorney When Petitioning for a U Visa
Your options for immigration relief will depend on your circumstances. An immigration attorney can:
- Assess if you qualify for a U visa
- Ensure your petition is prepared properly and filed correctly
- Identify and collect supporting documents
- File your petition
- Keep tabs on your petition’s processing
- Answer your questions
- Inform you of your rights and options
- Help you prepare a personal statement about the crime and how it affected your life and the lives of your family members, if it did
Your petition packet will include:
- Form I-918: Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
- Form I-918: Supplement B: U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, a signed form from the police you aided
- Any additional documentation available
Your Lawyer Will Do All They Can for You
Your lawyer can petition for a waiver if you are not admissible to the country for some reason using Form I-192: Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant. You may receive a waiver and then gain approval for a U visa.
Your immigration attorney will take the next steps with you after the petition submission process. If your U visa petition is approved, you could petition for your lawful permanent resident status (green card) and work authorization. At that point, you could start with the naturalization and citizenship process.
Most immigration law firms will provide strategic sessions with an attorney to help you understand your options. The cost of this meeting will apply to your case if you sign on for representation.
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Speak To an Attorney From New Frontier Immigration Law
The New Frontier Immigration Law team approaches each client’s case with compassion and support, as well as a thorough knowledge of immigration law. Call us today to talk to our team about what we can do to help your immigration case through our many practice areas.
We provide strategic sessions to assess each individual or family’s needs. We could help you fight removal and gain legal status through a U visa or another program. We are also here if your loved one was detained or deported.