On Friday, July 13, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published an updated policy memorandum. The memorandum updates USCIS’ guidance for adjudicators on the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID).
This guidance is effective September 11, 2018 and applies to all applications other than Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), received by USCIS after that date.
Under the prior policy, when the documentation initially submitted with an application was not sufficient to establish eligibility for the benefit sought, in most cases USCIS adjudicators were to issue RFEs and NOIDs requesting the missing documentation. The only cases exempt were those in which there was “no possibility” of approval.
Under this new policy, which USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna states will “discourage frivolous filings and skeletal applications,” adjudicators can deny an application simply for failure to establish eligibility in the initial filing. Director Cissna commented, “For too long, our immigration system has been bogged down with frivolous or meritless claims that slow down processing for everyone, including legitimate petitioners. Through this long overdue policy change, USCIS is restoring full discretion to our immigration officers to deny incomplete and ineligible applications and petitions submitted for immigration benefits.”
In lieu of issuing RFEs, the policy memorandum states adjudicators have discretion to validate or corroborate information through information publicly available or government databases. However, it does not state they are required to do so.
While the policy memorandum has not yet taken effect and the impact is unclear, it will no doubt affect many applicants. Applicants who file applications on their own or who do not possess all the documentation needed at the time of filing may face an increase in adverse decisions. Additionally, if USCIS denies more applications without issuing an RFE or NOID, applicants who re-file their application or submit an appeal will face additional filing fees as well as lengthier wait times.
Lopez Immigration Law will continue to monitor the effects of the memorandum and hopes to publish an update on our blog in the future.
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