On Monday, June 14, USCIS updated the USCIS Policy Manual to introduce the Bona Fide Determination, a new process that will give crime victims access to employment authorization sooner as they assist law enforcement with investigations and prosecution. This guidance applies to all Form I-918 and Form I-918A petitions currently pending or filed on or after June 14, 2021.
“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. The Bona Fide Determination process is consistent with the Department’s statutory authorities and will ensure these individuals receive the support they need,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
Under the Bona Fide Determination, USCIS will issue employment authorization, and grant deferred action to petitioners in the United States with pending U visa petitions that it determines are bona fide (made in good faith and without the intention of deceit or fraud) and who merit a favorable exercise of discretion.
USCIS will deem a petition bona fide if:
- The principal petitioner properly filed Form I-918, including Form I-918B U Nonimmigrant Status Certification;
- The principal petitioner properly filed a personal statement from the petitioner describing the facts of the victimization; and
- The result of the principal petitioner’s biometrics has been received.
USCIS will issue employment authorization and deferred action if, after conducting and reviewing background checks, the agency determines, in its discretion, that petitioners merit a favorable exercise of discretion and do not pose a risk to national security or public safety.
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. Congress has capped the number of principal U visas available each fiscal year at 10,000, but since 2010 USCIS has received more than 10,000 U visa petitions each year. Currently, due to the high volume, U visa petitioners wait approximately five years before receiving a determination that allows them access to an employment authorization document and deferred action.
For more information, see the policy alert.