USCIS issues policy update to better protect victims of crime

WASHINGTON – USCIS is updating the USCIS Policy Manual by introducing a new employment authorization process for petitioners for U nonimmigrant status (U visa) with pending bona fide petitions who meet certain discretionary standards. This new process will allow eligible petitioners access to more timely employment authorization, which will provide these victims of crime more stability as they rebuild their lives, and will better equip them to cooperate with and assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting crime. 

Currently, U visa petitioners are waiting at least five years before receiving a decision permitting them access to an employment authorization document. During this wait time, they face vulnerabilities, such as financial instability and fear of deportation. Through this policy update, victims will receive, without extensive delay or lengthy wait times, the stability they need while they work with law enforcement. This increase in victim cooperation will further fortify law enforcement’s ability to protect and secure communities throughout the United States.  

USCIS will now adjudicate employment authorization for eligible petitioners with pending U visa petitions that USCIS determines are bona fide, or made in good faith and without intention of deceit or fraud.  This new process is referred to as the Bona Fide Determination Employment Authorization (BFD EAD) process.

“It is unfortunate for anyone to have suffered or witnessed criminal activity, but even more so when they are not familiar with the country and lacking necessary support in their quest for justice,” said USCIS Acting Director Tracy Renaud. “This bona fide determination process will allow U visa petitioners to work and remain safely in the United States while they provide valuable support to law enforcement to detect, investigate or prosecute the serious crimes they have survived or witnessed.”

USCIS will deem a petition bona fide if:

USCIS will issue employment authorization and deferred action if, after conducting and reviewing background checks, the agency determines, in our discretion, that they do not pose a risk to national security or public.

This guidance is effective immediately and applies to all Form I-918 and Form I-918A petitions that are currently pending, or filed on, or after June 14, 2021.

Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and other qualifying crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and cooperate with law enforcement authorities during the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U nonimmigrant visa program also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes. 

Visit Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes to learn more about other protections for victims of crime, human trafficking, and domestic violence.

For more information see the policy alert.

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