USCIS Announces New Policy Giving U Visa Applicants Work Permits Earlier in Process

What Is the New Policy?

Due to increases in the volume of U nonimmigrant applications and a growing backlog awaiting processing, USCIS has decided to conduct faster “bona fide determinations” and provide four-year work permits to applicants for U nonimmigrant status and qualifying family members who meet certain (bona fide) standards. The policy is in effect as of the issuance of the policy and applies to all Form I-918 petitions filed or pending on June 14, 2021 or after. The policy does not replace the existing waitlist process, but offers a shorter path to work authorization within it.

How Will USCIS Decide if An Application Is Bona Fide?

USCIS has said that a principal applicant’s U Visa application is bona fide if forms I-918 (petition for U nonimmigrant status) and I-918B (law enforcement certification) are properly completed and signed; the filing includes a signed statement from the applicant describing the facts of victimization; USCIS has collected biometrics; and the applicant passes a national security and public safety assessment.

If USCIS finds that the U visa petition is bona fide, USCIS will issue a four-year work permit and deferred action that can be renewed every four years. For those with a bona fide petition, the next step will be issuance of U visa status once a visa is available.

Are Derivative Beneficiaries Included?

Yes, derivative beneficiaries are eligible for work authorization, but must independently of the principal applicant show that their application is bone fide. Derivative beneficiaries are eligible if the principal applicant receives a bona fide work authorization; the applicant has properly filed a complete Form I-918, Supplement A; the application includes credible evidence of the qualifying family relationship; and USCIS has received the results of the qualifying family member’s background and security checks based upon biometrics.

When Could I Get a Bona Fide Work Permit?

USCIS is implementing this guidance immediately. However, USCIS anticipates it taking at least a year or two to start issuing bona fide work permits. USCIS will begin with applicants who have been waiting the longest. Our office asks you to please be patient. We are following everything closely and making sure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure our clients with long pending U visas will be in line for their work permit as soon as possible.