The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced three new policy updates to the USCIS Policy Manual aimed at improving access to immigration services. The updated guidelines:
- Clarification of the criteria for accelerated processing of benefit applications;
- Address guide for issuing requests for evidence (RFE) and notices of intent to refuse (NOID); and,
- Increase the period of validity of initial and renewal approval documents (EADs) for certain non-citizens with pending adjustments to status applications.
These policy initiatives were taken in accordance with Executive Order (EO) 14012 “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” The order issued by President Biden on February 2, 2021 directs federal agencies to identify strategies to remove barriers that hinder access to immigration services.
What employers and foreigners need to know
Applicants and petitioners may request that USCIS expedite the decision on immigration benefit applications, even if the award processing for the application is otherwise available. USCIS will review these requests on a case-by-case basis. The updated Rush Procedures Policy clarifies the criteria and circumstances under which USCIS generally honors urgent requests. It restores the ability for nonprofits to request expedited processing when the beneficiary promotes U.S. cultural and social interests. It also clarifies that expedited processing of non-nationals pending or in a deportation process will be coordinated between USCIS and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service (ICE).
Requests for evidence and notifications of intent to refuse
The updated RFE and NOID guidance repeals a Trump-era policy that allowed officials to reject certain benefit claims directly instead of issuing an RFE or NOID first. The updated guide instructs officers to issue an RFE or NOID if additional evidence could potentially prove eligibility for an immigration benefit, rather than simply rejecting the benefit claim. This practice helps ensure that those claiming benefits have the opportunity to correct simple errors or unintentional omissions. This was USCIS policy from 2013 to 2018 when it was repealed by the Trump administration. This action will restore the instructions from 2013.
Work permit documents
Updated policy guidelines extend the period of validity for initial and renewal Work Permit Documents (EADs) from one year to two years for a certain adjustment of status applicants. The goal is to significantly reduce the number of work permit applications submitted to USCIS so that USCIS can shift limited resources to other priority areas.
Gibney welcomes these developments and will closely monitor their effects. We will continue to report on additional initiatives to improve and modernize the US immigration system.