The Biden Administration has enacted a new policy of making U visa applicants eligible for work permits (employee authorization documents). However, the Administration has not yet set out instructions as to whether the USCIS will be automatically sending U visa applicants work permits in the mail or whether they will have to apply for the EAD via the standard I-765 application.

Background

The U-1 non-immigrant visa is a temporary visa for victims of criminal activities that occurred in the United States or abroad and violated U.S. laws. The State Department notes that such individuals may be eligible to petition for U nonimmigrant status if they have a bona fide case to present. In addition, the burden of evidence that is generally needed is that victims, after being exposed to such criminal activities, have suffered mental or physical abuse and therefore qualify for this visa category.[1] Victims also need to help U.S. law enforcement and assist in any ongoing investigation in order to qualify for the U-1 non-immigrant visa.

If you are granted a U-1 non-immigrant visa and allowed to travel to the United States for admittance, you will also be granted a work permit with a four year validity period.

Issues with Limbo Phase

However, the U visa presents problems for applicants who are already in the United States and are awaiting a decision from the USCIS. This is because while such applicants might receive help from immigration lawyers to file their U visa application, there is nothing that applicants can do during the likely five-year waiting period.

Up until last week, this presented serious problems for immigrants who were essentially stuck in a limbo phase, unable to work but also unable to seek an official status. This is why the move to grant EADs to those in the application phase is so important.  

Applying for a Work Permit

If you need to now apply for a work permit in this category, you should go to the USCIS website and fill out an I-765 application. In Part 1, make sure you are selecting the “initial permission” option to accept employment. On the form you will also be required to list your current U.S. address as well as your I-94 Entry and Exit history. If you are having trouble locating your I-94, it is because the process has become digital and has moved online. We have already written on the I-94 topic on the Immigration blog in terms of how to locate your digital record. See the following for more details: https://www.visa2us.com/tools-for-immigrants/cant-find-your-i-94-record-heres-why.

If you did not enter the U.S. lawfully, you should absolutely seek the counsel of an immigration lawyer to make sure that the explanation you record in Part 2, Question 30(g) is a legitimate response. Applicants should also know that the Biden Administration is granting legal protections (such as the work permit) to those who currently don’t have legal status, but are still U visa applicants.[2] Therefore you should not be worried about violations if you are seeking this benefit based on the new policy.

Keywords
USCIS Work Permit