On June 14, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services updated its policies, giving U visa petitioners that are supporting law enforcement in criminal investigations the opportunity to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).
U nonimmigrant status may be granted to noncitizens who have been victims of certain criminal activity while living in the United States. Qualifying crimes include, but are not limited to, felonious assault, domestic violence, sexual assault, abduction, blackmail, extortion, kidnapping, manslaughter, involuntary servitude, prostitution, rape, sexual exploitation, stalking, torture, and witness tampering.
The new review process enacted by USCIS introduces an initial bona fide determination prior to full adjudication of petitions to give foreign nationals who have experienced criminal activity in the U.S. increased stability and the ability to support themselves while they assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting crimes in the U.S.
Currently, Congress caps the number of U visas issued per year at 10,000, which is significantly lower than the number of petitions. As a result of the backlog, U visa petitioners may wait years to have their cases adjudicated. The new review process may grant individuals who are waiting for their U visa petitions to be adjudicated employment authorization and deferred action (or possibly parole) during the pendency of their cases, provided USCIS makes a favorable bona fide determination of their petitions.
USCIS shall consider the following for a bona fide determination:
- Forms I-918 and Form I-918 U Nonimmigrant Status Certification have been filed properly;
- The petitioner has filed a statement describing the facts of victimization;
- The petitioner’s biometrics results have been received;
- The petitioner has effectively proven, at the discretion of the agency, he or she was a victim of a qualifying crime, and he or she have been assisting law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting that crime.
Such determination is also subject, among other factors, to the agency’s determination of whether the primary petitioner poses a risk to national security or public safety, and merits favorable exercise of the agency’s discretion.
USCIS has announced that U visa petitions already filed or which are pending are eligible for bona fide determinations. EADs and deferred action granted based on favorable bona fide determinations regarding U visa petitions may be valid for up to four years, and may also apply to the petitioners’ qualifying family members.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to and cannot substitute the advice of and representation from a competent immigration attorney.