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U Visa and Bona Fide Determination Process for Victims of Qualifying Crimes


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services invites the public to participate in a webinar on Wednesday, Oct. 20 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern. During this webinar, USCIS representatives will provide an overview of the new Bona Fide Determination process, which allows eligible victims of crime in the United States petitioning for U nonimmigrant status access to employment authorization and deferred action, providing victims stability and better equipping victims to cooperate with and assist law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.

You can sign up for this webinar on the USCIS page.

By statute, USCIS has the discretion to provide employment authorization to noncitizens with pending, bona fide U nonimmigrant status petitions. Consequently, USCIS implemented the Bona Fide Determination (BFD) process.

During the BFD process, USCIS first determines whether a pending petition is bona fide. Second, USCIS, in its discretion, determines whether the petitioner poses a risk to national security or public safety, and otherwise merits a favorable exercise of discretion. If USCIS grants a noncitizen a Bona Fide Determination Employment Authorization Document (BFD EAD) as a result of the BFD process, USCIS then also exercises its discretion to grant that noncitizen deferred action for the period of the BFD EAD. USCIS generally does not conduct waiting list adjudications for noncitizens to who USCIS grants BFD EADs and deferred action; these petitioners’ next adjudicative step is final adjudication when space is available under the statutory cap.

As a matter of policy, USCIS interprets “bona fide” as part of its administrative authority to implement the statute as outlined below. Bonafide generally means “made in good faith; without fraud or deceit.” Accordingly, when interpreting the statutory term within the context of U nonimmigrant status, USCIS determines whether a petition is bona fide based on the petitioner’s compliance with initial evidence requirements and successful completion of background checks. If USCIS determines a petition is bona fide, USCIS then considers any national security and public safety risks, as well as any other relevant considerations, as part of the discretionary adjudication.

As a primary goal, USCIS seeks to adequately evaluate and adjudicate petitions as efficiently as possible. The BFD process provides an opportunity for certain petitioners to receive BFD EADs and deferred action while their petitions are pending, consistent with the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008.

Only petitioners living in the United States may receive BFD EADs since those outside the United States cannot as a practical matter work in the United States. Likewise, deferred action can only be accorded to petitioners in the United States since those outside the United States have no potential for removal to be deferred.

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