Published on: Friday, September 17, 2021

Noncitizen victims of serious crimes (and qualifying family members) who cooperate with law enforcement are eligible for special visas, but the feds tend to take an absurdly long time processing the applications (and even the work authorization applications that would let visa applicants work in the meantime).

The U-visa program allots visas — and a pathway to eventual citizenship — to victims of serious crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. However, the program is capped at 10,000 visas a year and demand is high, forcing USCIS to keep a waitlist of individuals already approved for a visa. Waitlisted individuals received deferred action status, a form of protection that indefinitely delays deportation. USCIS had more than 160,600 pending U-visa applications at the end of 2020.

Some applicants sue in Michigan and Kentucky federal courts. District court: case dismissed for failure to state a claim. Sixth Circuit: Not so. Their complaint at least plausibly alleges the sort of unreasonable delay the Administrative Procedure Act forbids. The cases and claims of being unable to obtain social security numbers, health care and lawful employment as a result of delays to being wait listed for the visa may proceed.

The consolidated suit is Edmer Barrios Garcia v. DHS et al., 21-1037 (6th Cir. Sept. 13, 2021).