Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you the latest immigration news from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
New USCIS Policies to Improve the Immigration System
We bring you some exciting news regarding new policies adopted by USCIS that have been designed to remove the barriers to immigration and help improve the current immigration system. The following are among the new changes being implemented by USCIS:
Under a newly updated expedite criteria policy, USCIS has now expanded the types of expedite criteria or circumstances under which the adjudication of a benefit request can be expedited, including where a request is made by a nonprofit organization whose request is in the furtherance of cultural and social interests of the United States.
According to the new change:
USCIS may consider an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstance:
- 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 , or
- Timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
- Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- U.S. government interests (such as urgent cases for federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
- Clear USCIS error.
In addition, USCIS has made clear in its new guidance that, “not every circumstance that fits under one of the above listed categories necessarily results in expedited processing. For example, if the expedite request relates to an application for employment authorization or student status, the need to obtain employment authorization or student status, standing alone, without any evidence of other compelling factors does, not warrant expedited treatment.”
Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny
USCIS has also announced that it is returning to the adjudicative principles of a June 2013 memo which instructs agency officers to issue an RFE or NOID whenever additional evidence could potentially demonstrate eligibility for an immigration benefit. As part of the updated RFE and NOID policy, USCIS is rescinding the July 2018 memo that permitted agency officers to deny certain immigration benefit requests instead of first issuing an RFE or NOID.
According to USCIS, “this updated policy will ensure that benefit requestors are given an opportunity to correct innocent mistakes and unintentional omissions. In general, a USCIS officer will issue an RFE or NOID when the officer determines additional information or explanation may potentially establish eligibility for an immigration benefit.” This new system will allow applicants and petitioners the ability to make their case and demonstrate the eligibility they seek, before an outright denial is issued.
Employment Authorization Documents – Work Permit Validity Period Increased from One-Year to Two-Years
USCIS has also announced that under its updated policy guidance it is increasing the current one-year validity period on both initial and renewal EADs to two years for adjustment of status applicants. The decision to increase the validity period on EADs was made to help reduce the number of employment authorization requests USCIS receives and allow the agency to shift limited resources to other priority areas.
The extended validity of EADs aims to reduce the ongoing processing delays affecting the completion of adjustment of status applications.
DHS Announces Open Registration for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Burma (Myanmar)
Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for the country of Burma (Myanmar) for a period of 18 months. This new designation is welcome news since it allows Burmese nationals, currently residing in the United States, the opportunity to file an initial application for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to remain free from deportation and receive a temporary employment authorization (Employment Authorization Document).
Secretary Mayorkas decided to designate Burma for TPS after careful consideration of extraordinary and temporary conditions in Burma, caused by the country’s coup, which has led to continuing violence, detentions of civilians without cause, and the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Burma.
To be eligible, Burmese nationals (and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Burma) must demonstrate that they have continuously resided in the United States since March 11, 2021 and have been continuously physically present in the United States since May 25, 2021.
Individuals who believe they qualify for TPS under the Burma designation may apply within the 180-day registration period that begins on May 25, 2021, and ends on November 22, 2021. Eligible applicants may also apply for TPS-related Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and for travel authorization by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and I-131 Application for Travel Document along with the Application for Temporary Authorization Form I-821.
USCIS Announces New Flexibilities for Filings at USCIS Lockboxes
On June 10, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies to provide relief to certain types of applicants who were negatively impacted by delays caused by a USCIS lockbox. These flexibilities apply only to benefit requests that were filed at a USCIS lockbox and not USCIS service centers or field offices.
The following temporary flexibilities have been made effective for 60 days from June 10, 2021, until August. 9, 2021:
- If you submitted a benefit request to a USCIS lockbox between Oct. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021, and that request was rejected during that timeframe solely due to a filing fee payment that expired while the benefit request was awaiting processing, you may resubmit the request with a new fee payment. If USCIS concurs that it has rejected the benefit request because of the delay, USCIS will deem the request to have been received on the initial filing date it was first received and waive the $30 dishonored check fee.
- USCIS will allow applicants and petitioners to submit documentation with a benefit request resubmission demonstrating that because of the time that elapsed between when a benefit request was originally submitted to a USCIS lockbox and when USCIS rejected it, an applicant, co-applicant, beneficiary or derivative has reached an age that makes them no longer eligible to file for the benefit requested. If USCIS agrees that the delayed rejection caused the person to be ineligible due to age, USCIS will accept the request and deem it to have been received on the date the initial benefit request was received. This flexibility does not apply to Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.
USCIS has also said that applicants and petitioners are welcome to contact USCIS to verify that previously filed benefit requests have not been rejected in error. If USCIS agrees that a filing was rejected in error, the agency may allow such applicants and petitioners to resubmit an erroneously rejected benefit request and will consider the benefit request to have been received on the date the initial benefit request was first received at a USCIS lockbox.
We applaud the swift changes being made by the Biden administration to make the immigration process more streamlined and decrease the substantial delays and backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope this will be the start of many more changes within the Department of Homeland Security that will help reduce the burden applicants and petitioners are facing in this challenging immigration climate.
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- USCIS Updates its Policies to Improve Immigration Services
- TPS Open Registration for Burma
- Lockbox Filing Flexibilities
- State Department Newsroom
- Charlie Oppenheim June 2021 Visa Bulletin Q&A
- Visa Services Operating Status Update
- List of Embassies and Consulates
- Youtube channel
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