USCIS officers must now request more evidence before denying immigration ases

USCIS officers must now request more evidence before denying immigration cases

On Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services), the entity in charge of reviewing and responding to immigration applications in the country, announced the re-implementation of a policy initially issued in 2013, which establishes a series of guidelines that immigration officers must follow before denying an application.

Broadly speaking, this policy outlines instructions for USCIS employees to issue RFEs (Requests for Evidence) and NOIDs (Notices of Intent to Deny) before rejecting immigration applications.

It is important to clarify that:

  • RFE is the tool USCIS uses to let applicants know that it needs more evidence (documentation or information) before it can deny or approve their immigration applications.
  • NOID is the tool USCIS uses to let individuals know that it might reject their immigration application, either due to lack of evidence or because they do not meet the requirements for said application, and gives them a specific deadline to present additional evidence.

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What is the 2013 guideline?

In 2013, under former President Barack Obama’s administration, the USCIS issued a policy guidance, which stated that immigration officers must send RFEs or NOIDs before denying an application if it did not have enough evidence and it could be approved if the applicant sent more documentation. Certainly, immigration officers could reject certain applications if they determined that, even with additional evidence, the applicant did not meet eligibility requirements.

Through the Policy Alert published in the USCIS Policy Manual, the Biden administration is resuming (effective immediately) the 2013 guidelines regarding the scenarios in which immigration officers must send an RFE or NOID prior to deny certain applications. Biden’s USCIS states that this policy will allow the agency to “reduce barriers that may impede access to immigration benefits”.

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Trump rescinded the 2013 policy

The reason why the Biden administration is re-implementing the 2013 policy is because in 2018, under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the USCIS rescinded these guidelines and issued new parameters for immigration cases that did not have enough evidence to be approved.

Under the 2018 policy, immigration officers could reject applications right away without sending RFEs or NOIDs, leading to the denial of hundreds of immigration cases that could possibly have been approved if the USCIS had received more evidence. The result of this policy was that applicants whose immigration applications were rejected without RFE or NOID had to start their processes from scratch to be able to present more documentation, which undoubtedly saturated the immigration system, lengthened waiting times and increased the backlog of pending immigration processes.

Regarding the 2018 policy, Biden’s USCIS openly states that “The denial of such cases, therefore, not only increased the burden on benefit requestors, but was also an inefficient use of USCIS resources. In such circumstances, the use of an RFE or NOID, rather than a denial, generally saves both benefit requestors and USCIS time and money”.

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