On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new updates to its USCIS Policy Manual, the agency’s guide for immigration policies. The amendments come in light of the Biden-Harris administration’s February 2 Executive Order on “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans”. The updates are expected to streamline processes, provide guidance to requestors, and extend EAD validity for certain applicants.
The updates to the following categories are explored in detail below:
Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny
USCIS Expedite Criteria and Circumstances
Employment Authorization for Certain Adjustment Applicants
I. REQUESTS FOR EVIDENCE AND NOTICES OF INTENT TO DENY RATHER BEFORE CASE DENIAL
USCIS is reviving a June 2013 memo that guides agency officers to issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Intent to Deny (NOID) for applications where additional information could assist in an immigration eligibility determination. This allows applicants to correct unintentional errors and provide further evidence for their case where applicable.
In addition to renewing this previous memo, the new policy rescinds the July 2018 memo allowing officers to deny requests without going through a RFE or NOID process.
The new policy has the following effect:
Explains that an officer should generally issue an RFE or NOID if the officer determines there is a possibility the benefit requestor can overcome a finding of ineligibility for the benefit sought by submitting additional evidence.
Emphasizes that officers should not issue unnecessary RFEs and NOIDs, such as in cases where the officer determines the evidence already submitted establishes eligibility or ineligibility for the benefit sought.
Provides guidance on when and how officers should issue RFEs and NOIDs and the limited circumstances in which officers may deny a case without first issuing an RFE or NOID.
Explains timeframes and options for benefit requestors to respond to RFEs and NOIDs.
II. USCIS EXPEDITE CRITERIA AND CIRCUMSTANCES
The new USCIS Expedite Criteria and Circumstances clarifies the circumstances under which the USCIS will consider requests to expedite immigration applications or petitions. A requestor must be in imminent danger of severe financial loss or be in an emergency or humanitarian crisis to be considered for an expedite request. Additionally, USCIS can make exceptions for nonprofit organizations, U.S. government interests, and clear USCIS errors.
USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will coordinate expedite requests for removal proceedings for noncitizens, along with those with a final order of removal.
III. EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION FOR CERTAIN ADJUSTMENT APPLICANTS
There is good news for visa holders who have had to frequently request a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD), only to wait five months or more for its approval. The Updated policy guidance will increase the current one-year validity period on both initial and renewal EADs to two years for certain Adjustment of Status applicants. This increase in the validity period on EADs is expected to reduce the number of employment authorization requests USCIS receives, and allow the agency to shift limited resources to other priority areas.
This guidance was issued due to ongoing processing delays affecting the completion of adjustment of status applications. Renewing EADs in this category is generally free, and USCIS received nearly 370,000 adjustment-related employment authorization requests in fiscal year 2020.
How Can I Take Advantage of these Updates?
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This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.