Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2021) – Ayuda is pleased that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced new procedures for issuing work permits to individuals with pending, bona fide U Visa applications.
U Visas are a form of immigration status, and a path to lawful permanent residency, available to individuals who have suffered certain crimes and cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of those crimes. Because there is a Congressional cap on the number of U Visas that can be issued each year, thousands of individuals are currently waiting for USCIS to decide upon their U Visa applications. Although entitled to work permits under U.S. law already, almost no applicants for U Visas receive work permits until at least four to five years after they first file for the U Visa.
This week’s changes to the USCIS policy manual, institution new procedures for USCIS to actually issue work permits promptly to individuals with pending U Visa applications which meet the basic statutory requirements on their face should positively impact hundreds of low-income immigrant survivors of crime who are represented by Ayuda and our pro bono partners in addition to thousands of other survivors represented by peer organizations nationwide or proceeding without counsel.
Ayuda and our peer organizations’ advocacy and litigation efforts have helped raise the profile of this critical question of U Visa applicants’ access to the work permits to which they are entitled under the law. We hope that we will soon be receiving work permits for our clients with pending applications consistent with this policy change.
This change is deeply impactful for Ayuda’s clients. We look forward to more survivors receiving timely access to work permits, enabling them to enjoy increased safety and stability while waiting on final adjudication of their U Visa applications. We also take this opportunity to call upon Congress to increase the U Visa annual cap to allow USCIS to issue final decisions on more applications. This will improve life for survivors of crime who have cooperated with U.S. law enforcement agencies while also improving efficiency at USCIS by reducing the backlog.
Ayuda helps vulnerable immigrants succeed and thrive in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Since our founding in 1973, Ayuda has served more than 150,000 immigrants throughout the region. Ayuda is the only non-profit service provider in the area that provides a wide range of immigration and family law assistance, social services, and language access support for all immigrants — including women, men, and children — from anywhere in the world. This comprehensive and open approach breaks down barriers, helps those in need, and makes our communities stronger.
Survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other crimes deserve timely access to for the work permits to which they are entitled. It is a genuine honor for Ayuda to stand with immigrant survivors from all over the world, today and every day, especially in moments of joy like that brought by this announcement.