In June, USCIS announced that they would change the way that they adjudicated U cases and we were all thrilled. Under the old policy, U visa applicants were waiting upwards of five years to get their cases reviewed and placed on a waitlist. There was no protection other than a receipt during this time. There was no work card and no driver’s license (at least in Georgia). Under the new policy, USCIS reviews U applications and will issue Bona Fide Determinations (BFDs) where it appears that the basic requirements are all met and there are no national security concerns. Once the BFD has been made, a work card will be issued. We had a lot of questions on what this BFD would look like in practice and we’re starting to get some answers.
Q. What if I’ve been put on the waitlist?
A. You’ll stay on the waitlist and be allowed to continue to renew your (c)(14) work card. Your place in line for the actual U visa is based on the date you filed your I-918, so that does not change.
Q. If I get a BFD, am I put on the waitlist?
A. No. Instead of being on a waitlist, your application will continue to wait until visas are available. Remember, USCIS can only grant 10,000 visas a year, so it may be a while before a final approval comes. However, your BFD work card will be valid for four years and you can renew it, if necessary.
Q. Do I need to pay for a BFD work card?
A. No. Neither the primary applicant or their derivatives need to pay for BFD work cards.
Q. But I still need to pay for work cards for my derivatives?
A. Yes. We recommend filing two work cards for your derivatives when you submit your U application to USCIS. The (c)(14) work card is based on BFD and has no fee. The (a)(20) work cards for derivatives granted U-2, U-3, U-4 or U-5 status all require a fee.
Q. I didn’t file a work card application with my original application. Is it too late?
A. USCIS recommends waiting until the BFD has been made before you file an I-765, but there is nothing saying you cannot apply while you wait.
Q. What date is USCIS working on?
A. As of August 26, 2021, the latest date we have received a BFD on is a case that we filed on December 20, 2016. USCIS states that they are working chronologically – that is, starting with their oldest cases and working up to the present.
Q. Once I get a BFD or if I’m already on the waitlist, how much longer do I need to wait for a U visa?
A. We don’t know. USCIS removed the processing times from their website and hope to have an updated chart available no later than January 1, 2022.
I know it’s still a long wait, but we are getting there and it’s getting better!