A new policy by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that took effect Tuesday will have a significant negative impact on legal immigrants with pending or upcoming applications.
In light of the policy changes, immigration officials will now have broader authority to issue case denials over mistakes and missing documents without giving applicants an opportunity to fix them and provide additional documentation.
About 7 million people apply for permanent residence or visas each year, according to ProPublica.
Until now, if the applicants did not submit sufficient evidence to establish immigration benefits eligibility, USCIS adjudicators issued courtesy warnings known as Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), which granted an opportunity to further explain the immigration case.
The applicants and their attorneys were then allowed time to add the required documents or information to their applications, hoping they would be approved. The notifications also gave them the opportunity to correct errors before their cases were closed.
But under the new guidelines, adjudicators have the full discretion to deny the applications without first issuing any notices.
“Without the notices, applicants won’t have the opportunity to intervene before a decision is made, potentially adding months or years of extra paperwork and thousands of dollars in fees to the already lengthy process,” said an article in ProPublica, a nonprofit news agency that focuses on investigative journalism.
“In the case of those trying to renew their visas while they’re still in the U.S., they could be placed in deportation proceedings the moment their visas expire,” the report added.
USCIS announced the policy guideline on July 13, explaining that it “restores to the adjudicator full discretion to deny applications, petitions, and requests without first issuing an RFE or a NOID, when appropriate.”
“For too long, our immigration system has been bogged down with frivolous or meritless claims that slow down processing for everyone, including legitimate petitioners,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said in a statement at the time.
“Through this long overdue policy change, USCIS is restoring full discretion to our immigration officers to deny incomplete and ineligible applications and petitions submitted for immigration benefits,” he added.
According to Lexology, a source of international legal updates, analysis and insights, because of those changes, USCIS “may now deny a matter without an RFE and may directly deport an unsuccessful applicant or requestor who has accrued unlawful presence, without first referring the case to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as traditionally occurred.”
Therefore, immigration experts warn that it it’s extremely important that lawful foreigners and legal immigrants be prepared to provide evidence for any request for immigration benefits in the initial petition.
Otherwise, “if all required initial evidence is not submitted with the benefit request, USCIS, in its discretion, may deny the benefit request for failure to establish eligibility based on lack of required initial evidence,” said the immigration agency, which recently expanded the list of categories for which immigrants can be sent before immigration judges to start deportation procedures against them.