USCIS: Three New Policy Updates to Improve Immigration Services

On June 9th, 2021, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced three new policy updates that will surely provide noncitizens with some additional peace of mind. These updates will be particularly welcomed by noncitizens who are seeking adjustment of status applications, and reduce burdens for noncitizens seeking immigration benefits.

According to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, “We are taking action to eliminate policies that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system, and will continue to make improvements that help individuals navigate the path to citizenship, and that modernize our immigration system.”

As to the updates, they cover three policies to provide clarification on adjudication.

Policy Alert 1: Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny

From 2013 until 2018, USCIS had issued Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID) if there was need for additional evidence before making final adjudication on immigration benefits requests. This had been of great assistance to petitioners and applicants, as it allowed them the opportunity to submit the necessary additional documents.

In 2018, USCIS updated the policy by giving permission to agency officers to deny petitions, applications, and benefit requests directly when appropriate, without first issuing a RFE or NOID. This updated policy strongly impacted those seeking immigration benefits, as they no longer had the opportunity to demonstrate their eligibility by providing additional evidence.

After careful consideration, USCIS has announced that they are returning to the protocol announced in the 2013 policy memo by instructing officers to issue a RFE or NOID if they feel there is a lack of documentation or evidence that needs to be provided by the applicant or petitioner. This new policy will ensure that immigration benefit requestors receive a RFE or NOID before having their petition/application/benefits request denied.

Key points to remember:

  • The new policy reinstates the 2013 policy memo requiring the issuance of a RFE or NOID before taking final action on a request.
  • The new policy cancels the 2018 policy memo allowing officers to deny a benefit request without first issuing a RFE or NOID.

Policy Alert 2: USCIS Expedited Processing Criteria and Circumstances

In most situations, if an immigration benefit requestor wants to expedite a case, they have the option of premium processing for an additional fee. However, if that petitioner is designated as a nonprofit organization by the U.S Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and is acting to further the cultural and social interests of the United States, they can request that an application be expedited without a fee, even if premium processing is available for that benefit.

The updated criteria for expedited processing of cases provides new guidance for benefit requestors and USCIS officers on when expedited processing may be warranted.

USCIS may consider an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstances:

  • Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to:
    • timely file the benefit request
    • timely respond to any requests for additional evidence
  • Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons
  • IRS-designated nonprofit organizations whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
  • U.S. government interests, including urgent cases for federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, or other public safety or national security interests
  • Clear USCIS error

Expedited processing is a service for special circumstances such as natural disasters, and other extreme situations where USCIS deems that the benefit requestors urgently need their request for immigration benefits adjudicated.

USCIS will consider expedited processing requests on a case-by-case basis. Expedited requests for noncitizens with a final order of removal, or noncitizens in removal proceedings are coordinated between USCIS and U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Note: Expedited processing requests can be made by contacting the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283, or by asking for Emma after obtaining a receipt notice. Those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or with speech disabilities that require TTY services can call 1-800-767-1833.

Policy Alert 3: Employment Authorization for Certain Adjustment Applicants

Normally, applicants need to file a form I-485 adjustment of status application along with form I-765 to seek an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Doing so allows applicants to work in the United States until they receive an update on their adjustment of status petition. This benefit is utilized by most adjustment of status applicants. The initial and renewal I-765 petitions have thus far been approved for one year each time.

However, updated policy guidance is providing more convenience to applicants by granting two years of approval for EAD authorization. This is applicable for the both the initial application, and renewal for certain adjustment of status applicants. The longer period of validity for certain adjustment of status applicants is reducing filing counts on I-765s. Replacement EADs will not be affected by the updated policy, and USCIS will continue to issue replacement EADs with the same period of validity as the original EAD.

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