The U.S. Congress created U non-immigrant status (the U visa) in October 2000 to help victims of certain crimes who have experienced extreme mental or physical abuse and were helpful to law enforcement of government in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The U visa bestows clear benefits, when granted: The applicant—and any qualifying family members included as the applicant’s derivatives—can work and reside in the United States lawfully for four years; but after having U visa status for three years, the Applicant can apply to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
The only downside? The wait. When Congress created the U visa, it set an annual cap of 10,000 visas that may be granted to principal applicants each year. Once it has doled out the first 10,000 visas each year, the remaining applicants are placed on a waiting list. So, just how long do applicant’s have to wait until there are granted a U visa, you ask? The most recent estimate from USCIS indicates total processing times of between 50 – 50.5 months, or just over four years!
There are two important things to keep in mind while waiting for your U visa:
- First, it is normal to go long periods without receiving any notice from USCIS updating you on your case. This is normal practice. For the most part, after USCIS sends the applicant initial notices in the month after filing the U visa application, the applicant will not receive any more communication from USCIS for two or three years.
- Second, keep your attorney informed of any plans to change marital status, or any recent contact with law enforcement. A lot can happen in a person’s life over the course of four years. Applicants may get married, divorced, or have children. These changes can all impact the U visa application. It’s important to discuss any changes with that may occur in your life with at attorney while the U visa is pending.
For an obvious example, if a wife included her husband as her derivative on her U visa application and they divorce while it’s pending, that husband is no longer eligible to receive a U visa.Or, if the applicant is under the age of 21 and included their parents, the applicant should proceed with caution before marrying, as the marriage would mean the parents could no longer qualify for a U visa, either. Always consult with an attorney before making any legal changes that would alter that family structure.
While the U visa is pending, an applicant could also be arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime. Depending on the resolution of the matter, the applicant may need to update their U visa application.If the new contact with law enforcement made the applicant trigger a ground of inadmissibility, then the applicant may also need to get a new updated waiver of inadmissibility, too.
In sum, having a U visa application pending is a true exercise in patience. Don’t fret if you haven’t received notice from USCIS in a while. Make sure to consult an attorney before going forward with a divorce or a marriage. Contact us for a free consultation to see if you may qualify for a U visa, or if you have a U visa pending and need to discuss any recent criminal contact or possible changes in marital status.
To discuss the specifics of your case:
Call us at 678.324-8511;
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If you handle your case correctly, and your fiancée is not from a country that is considered to have high fraud, then the total wait should be between 7 to 9 months in 2018. The majority of our cases are being completed in about 8 months. Prior to Trump taking office, the fiancée visa timeline was closer to 6 months. This fiancée visa timeline can change. This blog article will explain, in detail, about the fiancée visa timeline.
The most important thing you can do is file a quality fiancée visa petition with USCIS. If you are missing evidence or have other mistakes in your case it is likely that your case will take longer than average. This is why it makes sense to at least consult with an experienced immigration attorney about your situation. The attorney will review you case and point out weak areas or areas which may cause your case to be delayed or denied. You can then take the steps to fix those areas prior to filing your case.
You will file your case with USCIS.
A Notice of Action will be sent to you from USCIS in a few weeks. The notice of action is meant to let you know that USCIS has received your packet and that the case is being processed. After this your case will go quiet. You really should not hear anything for the next 5 to 7 months. (This wait is quite a bit longer than the wait time just a couple of years ago)
If all is well with your case you will receive USCIS approval at this point. Unfortunately, this does not mean that your case has been approved (if only it were that easy). It just means that you have passed the first of three hurdles. Your case will now be sent to National Visa Center. At the National Visa Center level your case will be assigned a new Department of State case number. After the National Visa Center assigns a new case number your case will be sent to the local American embassy or consulate. They will process the remaining part of the fiancée visa case.
The interview should take place sometime within the next month 2 to 3 months. The wait time will primarily be based on the number of cases being processed at the time your case is there. At this stage your fiancée will have her very important interview, have her medical examination done, and be told about obtaining other documents to finalize her case. She needs to make sure that she complies with everything that is requested of her at this point in the process.
The interview is very important. This will probably be the most important interview in your fiancé’s life. If it goes well then she will be able to start her life with you in the United States in a short amount of time. If it does not go well you may have to refile the whole case and start over. This could take an additional 8 months or longer.
The key thing is that she know about you and your life. She should know you very well in order to have a successful interview. She should know about your life in the United States. She should know where you live, what kind of work you do, and all about your family . If you have a criminal past she should know about this and not find out about it at the interview. In addition, she should know about any past marriages. You may wish to read our article about the fiancée visa interview process. This includes the fiancée visa interview questions.
Assuming all goes well at the consulate the fiancée visa will be granted. Congratulations! Approval generally happens in about a week to 10 days. You are then eligible to enter the United States with your fiancée visa.
You will receive a sealed packet that must not be opened until you come to your port of entry. The fiancée visa is valid for 6 months and is a one time entry. I have had potential clients ask if they can get married in the United States and then immediately go to Mexico or another country for their honeymoon. As the fiancée visa is a one time entry visa I have had to tell them that unfortunately they will not be able to honeymoon in Mexico right after their wedding. Instead they will need to get married within 90 days and then file for their fiancée’s green card via adjustment of status. Once they file for adjustment of status there will be a 3-6 month wait to receive a work/travel card. (Btw: there is no rhyme or reason as to why some clients receive this card in 3 months and some receive it closer to 6 months. The results really seem to be random. This is a lot different than even a couple of years ago when everyone seemed to receive this card about 3 months after their adjustment of status case was filed with USCIS.) They can use this travel card (advance parole) in order to travel outside of the United States for their honeymoon. Thankfully, many of our clients are in California and there are plenty of places to go for their honeymoon in California. Once the travel card is issued, assuming that they entered on a fiancée visa, they can then go out of the country for a trip.
I hope you enjoyed this blog article about the fiancée visa timeline. Just a reminder that this timeline is just an estimate and can, and probably will, change over time. You can make sure the case moves as quickly as possible by filing a quality petition with USCIS and timely responding and turning in requested evidence when requested.
To discuss the specifics of your case, call us at 678.324-8511 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org today to learn more.