By Kaylee Greenlee
Some immigrants who were victims of crimes will be able to apply more easily for work permits and be allowed relief from deportation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Monday.
The new process will allow immigrants with U visas, granted to migrants who are victims of criminal activity, and expedited access to work permits if their claims are found to be made in good faith and they aren’t trying to defraud the immigration system, USCIS said.
For a petition to be considered bona fide, the applicant must have properly filed their forms and a personal statement describing their situation with the agency along with necessary biometric data.
“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,” USCIS Acting Director Tracy Renaud said in a statement. “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 to grant EADs and deferred action to all bona-fide U-visa applicants. pic.twitter.com/sGKY45X4wf
— Prerna Lal #BlackLivesMatter (@prernaplal) June 14, 2021
USCIS has over 270,000 pending U visa applications and the U.S. only allows for 10,000 U visas to be issued annually, according to the agency. The cap of 10,000 only applies to U visa petitioners and does not include any family members they would bring with them.
U visa petitioners are currently waiting at least five years for a decision on employment authorization leading to financial instability and increased fears of deportation.
“As a primary goal, USCIS seeks to evaluate and adjudicate petitions as efficiently as possible and prioritizes the adjudicative quality under this policy, while balancing the need to address as many petitions in the backlog as possible,” a USCIS spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The 270,000 pending cases includes petitioners living in and outside of the United States.”
“The BFD process applies specifically to petitioners living in the United States,” the spokesperson added. “Petitioners living outside of the United States will continue to receive waiting list adjudications in the order their petitions were received.”
Under the expanded policy, USCIS will evaluate whether applicants pose a risk to national security or public safety before approval, according to the agency. Employment authorization documents are automatically issued for immigrants whose U visa petitions are approved.
“These are individuals who have come forward to help law enforcement keep us all safe, but who are in need of a measure of protection for themselves, as well,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said according to Reuters.
If the number of applications exceeds the annual visa allocation, the agency will continue placing approved petitions on a waitlist, according to USCIS. Petitioners may be granted parole and allowed employment authorization in limited circumstances.
Immigrants granted the visa can apply for a work permit and seek permanent residence status after three years, though immigrants are currently waiting at least five years for work authorizations due to high demand.
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