On Monday, June 14th, the Biden Administration published new guidance to allow immigrant survivors of crime to receive deferred action and work authorization while their U Visa applications are pending.
In 2000, Congress created the U Visa, a status available to victims of certain enumerated crimes who assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Survivors of a variety of crimes can qualify, including domestic violence, felonious assault, sexual assault, human trafficking, and attempted murder. Currently, there are only 10,000 U Visas available each year, but hundreds of thousands of applicants waiting for their cases to be reviewed. While waiting, applicants were previously not eligible for work authorization and remained at risk of being deported. Because of the backlog, many applicants were waiting as long as five years for their cases to be decided.
The Biden Administration is changing that. Using a section of the statute previously overlooked, the Biden Administration is now allowing for “bona fide determinations” of each U Visa case. When a U Visa case is determined to be genuine and the applicant is deemed to not be a threat to national security or public safety, they are granted deferred action and work authorization for four years. This means that U Visa applicants are now no longer at risk of being removed from the United States during the pendency of their application and are able to lawfully work.
“This policy is a victory for immigrant survivors of crime and abuse,” said Nicole Alanko, the Clinic’s Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. “This policy reaffirms Congress’s purpose in creating the U Visa and takes thousands of people out of legal limbo.”
Although the policy is set to go into effect immediately, it is unclear how long it will take for the government to evaluate all of the currently pending cases under this review.