June 14, 2021
On June 14, 2021, USCIS announced that it is updating its Policy Manual to implement a new process, referred to as Bona Fide Determination, which will give immigrant victims of crime in the United States access to employment authorization sooner, as well as deferred action, while their U visa petition is pending.
USCIS’s stated goal in implementing this policy is to “provid[e] [immigrant victims of crime] with stability and better equipping them to cooperate with and assist law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.”
Through this new process, USCIS will issue employment authorization and grant deferred action to those in the United States with pending U visa petitions that it determines are bona fide (made in good faith and without intention of deceit or fraud) and who merit a favorable exercise of discretion. To be considered bona fide, the U visa petition must include (1) a certification from law enforcement that the petitioner was a victim of a crime and that the victim has been, is being, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that crime; and (2) a personal statement from the applicant describing the facts of the victimization.
This policy update is significant because of the long wait time that U visa applicants currently experience in obtaining their Employment Authorization Documents. As a result of a high case volume which far exceeds the number of principal U visas available each fiscal year, U visa applicants now wait approximately five years before receiving a determination that allows them access to an employment authorization document and deferred action. As USCIS now recognizes, “This wait time not only leaves these individuals vulnerable to financial instability and fear of deportation, but it also can disincentivize victims from coming forward and cooperating with law enforcement.”
The above guidance is effective immediately and applies to all U visa petitions and derivative filings that are either currently pending or yet to be filed. Please contact our office should you have any questions about your situation.