Under a new policy, USCIS has announced that it will begin issuing work permits to qualified U visa applicants much sooner than under the current protocol. Typically, it sometimes takes up to five years for a U visa applicant to receive an approval with corresponding employment authorization. Now, under a policy update issued June 14, 2021, the government will begin work permits to petitioners whose U visa applications have been determined to be bona fide and who demonstrated that a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted. “Bona Fide” is defined to mean “in good faith and without intention of deceit or fraud.”
Under the regulations, an application will be considered bona fide if:
- The applicant has a properly filed I-918 with a certification on Form I-918B from law enforcement attesting that the applicant 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;
- The applicant has a properly filed statement detailing the facts of the victimization; and
- The results of the applicant’s fingerprints have been received.
Additionally, even if the above criteria has been satisfied, applicants must also demonstrate that a favorable exercise of discretion is merited, and that they do not pose a risk to national security or public safety.
What is not clear yet, at least from the bulletin, is how applicants with already pending applications can receive bona fide determinations. The new guidance is effective immediately and applies to all I-918 and I-918A petitions that are currently pending or filed on or after June 14, 2021.
For more information on how to apply for and receive your work permit before being put onto the U visa waitlist, please contact our office.