US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a new US immigration policy that will allow access to US work permits and deportation relief to some immigrants who are crime victims while their US visa cases are pending. The new policy will see a process created that could allow tens of thousands of U visa applicants to apply for work permits.
It’s understood that this will be on the condition that an applicant’s claim is in good faith and without the intention of defrauding the US immigration system.
The announcement comes amid efforts by the Biden administration to make the US immigration system ‘more humane and affordable’. Biden has already reversed many of Trump’s controversial immigration policies.
Under the Trump administration, US immigration authorities made it easier to deport U visa applicants, drawing fierce criticism from immigrant advocacy groups. The United States only offers 10,000 U visas per year to immigrants who are the victims of certain crimes, such as domestic violence, and help law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.
The Trump administration would reject U visa applications on questionable grounds, including areas where forms were left blank or appeared incomplete.
The 20-year-old U visa program enables immigrants to apply for US work visas and permanent residency after three years. However, high demand means that most applicants currently have to wait at least five years for work authorization, according to USCIS.
While USCIS has announced that work permits will be expanded, it has not yet been disclosed how many U visa applicants will qualify for work authorization under the new policy.
A USCIS spokesperson told Reuters: “USCIS is currently considering 269,000 U visa applicants. However, not all of those applicants are in the United States.”
Promote public safety
In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said: “The move will help victims and promote public safety.”
“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,” Mayorkas added.
A policy memo released by USCIS on June 14 said: “Due to drastic increases in the volume of U nonimmigrant petitions and a growing backlog awaiting placement on the waiting list or final adjudication, USCIS will begin expediting processing in certain cases.”
USCIS said it will be implementing the new policy immediately.
However, the policy has raised some concerns. The Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes limits on immigration said: “The U visa program is already vulnerable to fraud and abuse, and fast-tracking work permits will only make that worse.”
The director of policy studies at the center, Jessica M. Vaughan, said: “That’s going to be a huge incentive for people to apply, knowing that they’re only getting a cursory review and a four-year work permit.”
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