Slow. The government is moving slow. That is the pattern that is emerging in the first half of 2017. Applications that moved quickly in the past are now taking longer, and USCIS keeps moving applications from one location to another one to balance its workloads.
The government can only issue 10,000 U visas every year. This means that there is a waitlist to be granted this type of visa. If the government believes an applicant’s submission is approvable, it can grant that person “deferred action” ahead of time, and allow them to get a work permit.
Currently, the government is granting deferred action on cases filed around 2.5 years ago (fall 2014). They are granting actual U visas around a year after deferred action. Keep in mind that if your application was only recently submitted, this could change substantially by the time you think your application may be granted—it all depends on how many applications the government receives (and approves) per year.
The USCIS office for Minnesota recently moved to an address in downtown Minneapolis, at 250 Marquette Ave, Suite 710, Minneapolis, MN 55401. (It is still called the St. Paul Field Office though!) Please note this address for any upcoming interviews and InfoPass appointments. This office has also suffered from a shortage of examiners for some time. It has moved more complex cases to other offices for someone else to make key decisions. The consequence is that it seems like little is moving in or our of the USCIS in this region. The processing times there for Adjustment of Status applications (Form I-485) and Naturalization applications (N-400) are about the same—one year. The N-400s are moving just a bit faster.
USCIS is still processing initial DACA applications and DACA renewal applications. President Trump recently confirmed that there is no plan to stop the program. If a person is still eliglble for the program, DACA is still a viable option to consider. Even if your DACA work permit does not expire for awhile, you can submit the renewal application—Wilson Law Group has been seeing approvals for renewal applications filed even 10 or 11 months before expiration. In addition, these renewal applications are being processed extraordinarily quickly—sometimes as quickly as two months after submission.
Work Permit Renewals
There is a new regulation in place regarding work permit renewals (Form I-765). If your work permit is based on one of the categories in the list below (you can find out by looking at your work permit card), then your work permit is extended automatically for 180 days as soon as you file your renewal application with USCIS. You cannot file your renewal application until 180 days (maximum) before your work permit expires.
Unfortunately, this means that the actual renewal—getting your new, physical work permit renewal card—is taking longer than before. Prior to January 2017, USCIS was supposed to issue renewed work permit cards within 90 days of submission of the renewal application. Now, there is no limit on USCIS issuance of the renewal cards. Here are the categories eligible for automatic 180 day extension:
(a)(3) – Refugee
(a)(5) – Asylee
(a)(7) – N-8 or N-9
(a)(8) – Citizen of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, or Palau
(a)(10) – Withholding of Deportation or Removal Granted
(a)(12) – Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Granted
(c)(8) – Asylum Application Pending
(c)(9) – Pending Adjustment of Status under Section 245 of the Act
(c)(10) – Suspension of Deportation Applicants (filed before April 1, 1997), Cancellation of Removal Applicants, Special Rule Cancellation of Removal Applicants Under NACARA
(c)(16) – Creation of Record (Adjustment Based on Continuous Residence Since January 1, 1972)
(c)(19) – Pending initial application for TPS where USCIS determines applicant is prima facie eligible for TPS and can receive an EAD as a “temporary treatment benefit”
(c)(20) – Section 210 Legalization (pending I-700)
(c)(22) – Section 245A Legalization (pending I-687)
(c)(24) – LIFE Legalization
(c)(31) – VAWA Self-Petitioners