09 Jun 2021

United States

USCIS Announces Policy Updates to Improve Immigration Services

On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced revised policies related to certain immigration services. According to Acting USCIS Director Tracy Renaud, these measures are steps that will “eliminate unnecessary barriers to our nation’s legal immigration system and reduce burdens on noncitizens who may be eligible for immigration benefits.”

First, USCIS has updated its policy for expedite requests. Expedited processing is a special-situation service where applicants or petitioners with urgent needs can convey their circumstances to USCIS and ask for immediate adjudication. The updated policy reflects a more expansive list of circumstances under which USCIS may consider expedite requests, including emergencies, requests by nonprofit organizations, and any U.S. government interest. USCIS will also consider expedite requests even if Premium Processing—a 15-day guaranteed service with a separate $2,500 filing fee—is available for the particular application or petition. 

Second, USCIS rescinded a 2018 policy that allowed officers to deny benefit requests for insufficient evidence without first sending a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). Now, when an initial filing does not demonstrate eligibility for a benefit but there is a possibility that other evidence exists to support the application or petition, officers should issue an RFE or NOID instead of a denial or rejection. This will provide eligible applicants and petitioners the opportunity to submit additional evidence for consideration and correct innocent mistakes or unintentional omissions. With this update, officers are instructed to issue RFEs unless there is no possibility that the requestor could overcome a finding of ineligibility. The revised guidance also emphasizes that officers should not issue unnecessary RFEs—when the initial evidence establishes eligibility, cases should be approved. 

Finally, there is updated guidance on the issuance of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) associated with adjustment of status (AOS) applications. Specifically, the current one-year validity period for initial and renewal EADs is increased to two years for most AOS applicants. This is expected to alleviate some of the adjudication backlog and processing delays. 

These updates reflect an effort by the current administration to improve the quality of services USCIS provides. USCIS recently sought public feedback about ways that USCIS procedures could be changed to promote access to the legal immigration system in a fair, efficient, and humane manner. Nearly 7,400 comments were received, and USCIS is expected to continue taking steps to remove unnecessary burdens and improve operations.

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