On Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new, official policy updates to be included in their policy manual. The USCIS Policy Manual is an internal guide for auditors to assess immigration grants eligibility. That announcement came with a statement from Alejandro Mayorkas, Minister of Homeland Security. Minister Mayorkas confirmed that “[w]We are taking steps to remove measures that do not promote access to the legal immigration system and will continue to make improvements that will help individuals find their way to citizenship and that modernize our immigration system. ”USCIS Director Tracy Renaud echoed that opinion and stated that “[t]These policies are in line with the priorities of the Biden Harris administration to remove unnecessary barriers to our country’s legal immigration system and to ease the burdens on non-nationals who may be eligible for immigration benefits.
The specific policy updates are listed below and are welcomed by individuals and businesses alike who rely on a reliable system for legal immigration to the United States.
Accelerated processing of outstanding immigration payments was always possible. With this updated policy, immigration grant applicants and USCIS arbitrators now have additional guidance on when expedited processing may be warranted. The Expedit Criteria now listed in the Policy Manual include the following:
- Serious financial loss to a company or person, unless the need for urgent action is due to the failure of the petitioner or applicant to: (1) submit the claim for benefits in a timely manner; or (2) respond in a timely manner to requests for additional evidence;
- Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
- Inquiries from non-profit organizations (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) promoting the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- US government interests (including urgent cases for federal agencies such as the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Labor, DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
- Clear USCIS errors.
Except for requests from nonprofits, this updated guide also confirms that rush requests will not be considered in cases where premium processing is available, which is unfortunate as the premium processing fee is $ 2,500.
Requests for evidence (RFEs) and declarations of intent (NOIDs)
USCIS is reverting to the jurisprudence standards of an earlier June 2013 memo instructing officers to file an evidence request (RFE) or letter of intent for rejection (NOID) if additional evidence could potentially prove eligibility for an immigration benefit. Through this move, USCIS is also revoking a memo dated July 2018 that gives officials the power to refuse certain immigration requests or requests without first issuing an RFE or NOID.
It is unclear whether this provision will have any practical impact on case decisions at USCIS. It is very unusual for USCIS to reject a petition or application without first issuing an RFE or NOID.
Work permit documents (EAD)
Finally, this new guideline extends the validity of work permit documents (EADs) for the adjustment of status applicants to two years – an increase compared to the previous one-year validity period. This two-year validity applies to both initial and renewal requests for EAD. This additional year of validity will help applicants reduce or potentially eliminate the need to apply for EAD extensions. It also helps the agency by allowing it to move resources to other areas.
We will continue to monitor how these guidelines are applied to actual cases and provide updates as necessary.