USCIS drops US work permit program for migrant victims of crimes

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has admitted botching a new plan to roll out US work permits for migrant victims of crime after charging more than $ 4 million for visas from free work. The US immigration agency is now working to reimburse more than 10,000 people who have been “incorrectly” billed for US work permits.

Meanwhile, USCIS revealed that it had also falsely rejected around 1,500 work permit applications filed by other migrants who, rightly so, had not paid the $ 410 fee because their work permit was supposed to be free. Much to the frustration of those who were wrongly rejected, they are now being asked to resubmit their approval requests.

The USCIS incident affects U visas, which are reserved for immigrant victims of crime, including migrants who are in the United States illegally. U visas give immigrants the option to stay in America for four years and potentially apply for U.S. citizenship.

10,000 U visas issued per year

The number of U visas that can be issued is capped at 10,000, and they are issued to victims of crime who cooperate with law enforcement authorities to help investigate or prosecute perpetrators.

In June this year, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that USCIS would issue work permits to many of those caught in the backlog, giving them interim legal status and giving them access. to certain tax benefits while they wait for a decision on their U visa application.

The Biden administration said the fees associated with applying for a U visa work permit would be waived, but USCIS still billed people in error.

According to USCIS, nearly 10,500 applications have been filed with payments and approved, despite the application fees should have been reimbursed.

The Biden team rushed

According to former Trump-era USCIS policy bureau chief Robert Law, the Biden administration “rushed things.”

Mr. Law said: “This is an example of an administration announcing a policy change without considering operational realities or impact. The Biden administration has clearly failed to train people or ignored advice that the “free” policy would be difficult to implement. “

The former USCIS policy bureau chief, who is now director of regulatory affairs and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, described the USCIS misstep as “another tax black eye for an agency whose budget is out of control “.

USCIS is funded entirely by fees charged for U.S. visas and immigration, and is one of the few federal agencies that is not dependent on funds from taxpayers.

Free of charge

However, an increasing volume of work done by USCIS is now “free”, meaning that asylum claims are no longer billed, but the cost is supposed to be covered by claims from other immigration routes such as US green cards or business visas.

Sadly, the pandemic has hit USCIS hard, especially following a Trump-imposed entry ban, which means applications for work visas, business visas, visit visas, student visas and more, quickly dried up with the costs of these visas.

At one point, USCIS was on the verge of collapse, leaving the immigration agency to desperately seize funding from the federal government.

Afghan evacuees

Recently, USCIS had to ask Congress for funds to manage the cost of treating Afghan refugees arriving in the United States after fleeing the Taliban. Meanwhile, the besieged immigration agency has also requested another infusion of taxpayer funds for its 2022 regular budget.

Despite growing financial challenges, the Biden administration apparently offers more “free” routes to the United States, including changes to the U visa route.

According to current data, more than 160,000 migrants claiming to be victims of a crime are waiting for one of the 10,000 U visas made available.

The Biden administration says it is “supposed to help the police” and the United States “owes it”.

An official from the Department of Homeland Security said, “To expedite the point in the process where they can get US work permits is an expression of our appreciation for victims of crime who cooperate with the police. “

New U visa rules

Under the new no-fee U visa rules, applicants can get a work permit and deferred action – which prevents people from being deported – once they have filed their application, provided biometric information, and deemed to have makes a “good faith” request. . The process is more commonly referred to as Good Faith Determination.

Under the previous rules, applicants had to wait until they had been much further along in the process before being granted permission to work or being granted protection against expulsion.

The new rules also make family members of victims of crime eligible for U.S. work permits.

An official statement released by USCIS said, “The payment issue was discovered during a routine review of evidence submitted by the claimants. Those who have paid can expect a refund by March 2022. “

“USCIS continues to advance policies and procedures that reduce barriers in the immigration system; increase access to eligible immigration benefits and reaffirm America’s humanitarian values, ”the statement added. can help you with sponsor licenses

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