U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new updates to the USCIS Policy Manual Wednesday, including changes to how the agency considers requests for expedited processing, the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) and the validity period of certain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).

  • Expedited processing. USCIS provided additional guidance on when expedited processing may be warranted. The agency also restored the ability of nonprofit organizations making requests “in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States” to request expedited processing, even if premium processing is available. USCIS reviews requests for expedited processing on a case-by-case basis.
  • Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs). USCIS rescinded a 2018 memo that permitted agency officers to deny applications, petitions or requests without first issuing an RFE or NOID. The agency will revert to the principles of a June 2013 memo that directed officers to issue an RFE or NOID when additional information could establish eligibility for a benefit. The agency said the updated policy “will ensure that benefit requestors are given an opportunity to correct innocent mistakes and unintentional omissions.” The updated policy also emphasizes that officers should not issue unnecessary RFEs and NOIDs, e.g., in cases where the officer determines the evidence already submitted establishes eligibility or ineligibility for the benefit.
  • Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). USCIS will increase the validity period for new and renewal EADs from one to two years for certain adjustment of status applicants. The agency said it made the change because of processing delays that often slow down the adjudication of adjustment of status applications.

Background: The changes to the USCIS policy manual are consistent with the goals of President Joe Biden’s Feb. 2 Executive Order on legal immigration. The agency has made a number of policy adjustments pursuant to the Executive Order, including its April 27 guidance on deference to prior approvals and its temporary policy to suspend certain biometrics requirements. The New York Times recently reported that the Biden administration continues to take steps to “rebuild and expand” legal immigration, citing a 46-page internal May 3 document titled “D.H.S. Plan to Restore Trust in Our Legal Immigration System.”

BAL Analysis: USCIS has taken a number of positive steps in recent months to improve immigration policies and processes, and BAL has recommended additional actions to reduce barriers to employment-based immigration. BAL will continue to track USCIS’s policies on immigration and will provide updates on important developments as they occur.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

Copyright © 2021 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.