U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced three new policy updates to the USCIS Policy Manual aimed at improving access to immigration benefits. The updated policies:
- Clarify the criteria for expedited processing of benefit applications;
- Address guidance regarding Request for Evidence (RFE) and Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) issuance; and,
- Increase the validity period for initial and renewal employment authorization documents (EADs) for certain noncitizens with pending adjustment of status applications.
These policy initiatives were taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14012, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” Issued by President Biden on February 2, 2021, the order directs federal agencies to identify strategies to eliminate barriers that impede access to immigration benefits.
What Employers and Foreign Nationals Need to Know
Applicants and petitioners may request that USCIS expedite the adjudication of immigration benefit requests even if premium processing is otherwise available for the application. USCIS reviews these requests on a case-by-case basis. The updated expedite policy clarifies the criteria and circumstances under which USCIS will generally consider expedite requests. It restores the ability of nonprofit organizations to request expedited processing if the beneficiary will further U.S. cultural and social interests. It also clarifies that expedited processing for noncitizens pending removal or in removal proceedings is coordinated between USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny
The updated RFE and NOID guidance rescinds a Trump-era policy that permitted officers to deny certain benefit requests outright instead of first issuing an RFE or NOID. The updated guidance instructs officers to issue a RFE or NOID when additional evidence could potentially demonstrate eligibility for an immigration benefit, rather than simply denying the benefit request. This practice helps to ensure that those requesting benefits have an opportunity to correct simple mistakes or unintentional omissions. This was USCIS policy from 2013 until 2018, when it was rescinded by the Trump Administration. With this action, the 2013 guidance is restored.
Employment Authorization Documents
Updated policy guidance increases the validity period for initial and renewal Employment Authorization Document (EADs) from one year to two years for certain adjustment of status applicants. The goal is to significantly lessen the number of employment authorization applications filed with USCIS, allowing USCIS to shift limited resources to other priority areas.
Gibney welcomes these developments and will closely monitor their impact. We will continue to report on additional initiatives to improve and modernize the U.S. immigration system.