Undocumented immigrants often face the difficult dilemma of cooperating with police when they are crime victims or witness and then risk the ability to work or stay in this country. However, the federal government announced earlier this month that it will expedite the issuance of temporary work permits to some undocumented immigrants who cooperate with law enforcement. This will provide faster access to temporary immigration protections until the final determination on their visa.
The change will impact immigrants who applied for the U visa. This visa program began in 2000 and is a pathway to citizenship for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes.
Congress allows the government to issue only 10,000 U visas each year. This leaves many other applicants on a waiting list for years and subject to possible deportation.
The U visa program now has a backlog of 270,000 applications which grew substantially in the last four years. The average wait time for placement on an official waiting list for temporary work rose from around 11 months during the 2015 spending year to at least five years in 2021.
State and local law enforcement support this program. However, they expressed concerns in recent years over the delay in granting protection to undocumented immigrants whose help and cooperation is needed for criminal investigations.
The government will make faster decisions on granting four-year work permits to immigrants waiting for their U visa determinations. Applicants will have the opportunity to work and remain safely in this country while providing cooperation for investigation and prosecution of crimes they survived or witnessed.
Work permits will not be granted to every applicant. Anyone applying for permits must register their fingerprints and biometrics with the government.
Immigration is difficult and complicated. An attorney can help assure that immigrants and families can pursue their legal options and that their rights are protected.