Waiting for a response back from the government on your U-Visa application can be a daunting and unnerving task. The anxiety and stress that ensues from this waiting period can be detrimental, however this is why it is important to know what your legal status looks like while anticipating this response. Awaiting a response from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the status of your U-Visa application is a process that one must be prepared to wait up to 5 years or more for a response because of the influx of applications received. “One reason it (a response on the status of one's U-Visa) takes so long is that Congress limited the number of U visas the government can give out to 10,000 per year, but far more than 10,000 people apply for U visas each year” WomensLaw.org states. Hence this extremely long and daunting waiting period comes the question of what one's legal status looks like while in the process of waiting to see whether their U-Visa applications are approved or not. Knowing one's status and rights during this period of time is extremely important in terms of easing anticipation and safety anxieties.
Due to the fact that the waiting period for the U.S. government to review U-Visa applications consists of a long period of time, the government may handle the applicant and their status in different ways. One way is that USCIS may grant an applicant a work permit and deferred action while they wait for a final decision. It is important that although deferred action is not an immigration status, it allows the USCIS to give a person awaiting status a work permit so they can legally seek out/fulfill work while awaiting for a decision on their U-Visa. Deferred action is a non immigrant status that allows USCIS to give a person a work permit so that they may legally work while awaiting the decision on their U-Visa applications. Attaining deferred action status translates that the government thinks you are a low priority for deportation and therefore are less likely to be deported while awaiting your U-Visa. In other words, a person awaiting the status on their U-Visa application should strive to attain deferred action for safety reasons.
There are two ways a person awaiting a decision on their U-Visa can get a work permit and deferred action. The first way is through bona fide determination. Bona fide determination is a process that was created with the goal of conducting initial reviews of U nonimmigrant status petitions with the intention to provide the eligible person who has been a victim to a qualifying crime the authorization of employment eligibility. The manner in which the USCIS conducts the bona fide determination process is through a basic review of an applicants Form I-918 and Form I-918 Supplement B. While conducting this process the USCIS will make sure that the person awaiting a response on their application has properly provided a personal statement about the crime and run a criminal background check. The USCIS will determine granting a U-Visa applicant through the process of pros and cons based on ones criminal background check and any other information on their criminal history. The USCIS will not grant bona fide determination and work permit if: your Form I-918 or I-918 Supplement are not complete or properly filled out; you do not provide a personal statement in your application; you do not complete your biometrics (or required fingerprints); or if USCIS believes you are a threat to public safety and/or national security.The second manner in which a person awaiting a decision on the status of their U-Visa application is through a waitlist. One is placed onto a waitlist if the USCIS decides not to grant you a work permit through bona fide determination. The way this works is that if the government thinks you are likely to be approved on your U-Visa application but have run out of U-Visas to give out during that given year, they will place you onto a waitlist and give you a work permit and deferred action for four years. This work permit and deferred action status can be renewed every four years until a U-Visa is granted to you.
Although attaining bona fide determination or a place on the waitlist are processes that can and/or may occur during ones waiting period of achieving (or not achieving) approval status on their U-Visas, attaining bona fide determination or a place on the waitlist are also processes that may take several years to complete because of the density of U-Visa applicants per year. To learn more about how you can attain deferred action while awaiting your U-Visa, please visit the USCIS website or contact the USCIS at 800-375-5283 (call 212-620-3418 if you are outside the U.S.) for more information.