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Much Touted BFD Not Yet Yielding Results for U Visa Applicants

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Much Touted BFD Not Yet Yielding Results for U Visa Applicants

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According to the USCIS Ombudsman’s 2022 Annual Report, through the end of fiscal year 2020, the agency was taking 54.3 months to review U visa applications for immigrant victims of certain crimes. With the goal of conducting initial reviews of U visa applications more efficiently and providing eligible victims with employment authorization and deferred action while they await a final adjudication of their U visa—which is likely to take over a decade due to the 10,000 annual statutory cap on visas issued—USCIS announced a new Bona Fide Determination (BFD) process for U visa applicants in June of 2021.

Advocates celebrated the announcement of the BFD process and its potential to more quickly give invaluable interim protections to U visa applicants.  But over a year in, the results have not been seen.  As reported by the USCIS Ombudsman, through May 2022, with a year of using the new BFD process, USCIS was now doing the initial processing of 80 percent of U visa applications and either issuing a BFD notice or notifying the applicant that it would not get a BFD notice in 61.5 months—over five years.  Wait times for U visa applicants are still interminable.

The BFD policy makes sense and still has enormous potential to help tens of thousands of victims of crime who are assisting law enforcement. Unfortunately, it appears that without more resources from the agency, the policy will not make a meaningful difference.  Advocates will continue to push USCIS to dedicate the necessary resources to make this program work for immigrant victims of crime, but thus far the results have been decidedly underwhelming.

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