Undocumented individuals who have been victims of certain qualifying crimes may apply for U nonimmigrant status if they cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of that crime. Unfortunately, applicants for U nonimmigrant status (or U visas) must wait years for a decision due to a cap of 10,000 U visas issued annually. As of this writing, there are currently over 100,000 U visa applications pending with USCIS, resulting in this backlog. For the last several years, the procedure has been the following:
Thankfully, USCIS has finally recognized the long, arduous road for crime victims in receiving benefits. On June 14, 2021, USCIS announced the Bona Fide Determination process, which allows applicants to receive work authorization much sooner. Through this process, USCIS will grant deferred action and employment authorization to applicants with pending U visa petitions that it determines are bona fide and who merit a favorable exercise of discretion as the applicant wait for the issuance of their U visa.
To be considered bona fide, an applicant must have submitted a complete Petition for U nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918), a complete U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918B) and a personal statement describing the qualifying crime and victimization.
This policy is effective immediately and applies to new U visa applications and all U visa applications currently pending with USCIS. This new review process will hopefully dramatically decrease the time applicants wait for work authorization and encourage more immigrant crime victims to come forward and report a crime. If you believe you qualify for U visa or have any other questions, please contact an experienced attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.
The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
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