AILA Quicktake #304: USCIS Issues Policy Updates to “Improve Immigration Services”

On 6/9/21, USCIS issued three important policy updates relating to expedite requests, RFE/NOIDs, and the validity of employment authorization documents. AILA’s Associate Director of Government Relations Diane Rish gives an overview of these policy updates.

Video Transcript

AILA Quicktake #304 – USCIS Issues Policy Updates to “Improve Immigration Services”

On Wednesday, June 9th, USCIS announced three significant policy updates relating to expedited processing requests for evidence, and notices of intent to deny and the validity period of certain employment authorization documents.

The first policy update relates to the criteria and circumstances for when expedited processing may be granted by USCIS. In its update, USCIS restored emergencies as one of the criteria for which expedited processing may be warranted and it clarified what USCIS considers to be an emergency, such as travel to obtain medical treatment in limited amount of time. USCIS also expanded the definition of severe financial loss to not just include when a company may be at risk of failing, which was the prior criteria, but it now includes considerations around the loss of a critical contract or being required to lay off certain employees if the benefit request is not granted. The updated guidance also takes into consideration that severe financial loss to a person may be established where the failure to expedite would result in the loss of a critical public benefit. Additionally, USCIS will now allow for certain nonprofit organizations to request expedited processing, something that had been illuminated by the Trump administration.

The second policy update relates to notices of intent to deny and requests for evidence. Essentially, USCIS has announced that it will be rescinding the July 2018 policy memo that was implemented under the Trump administration. That policy memo allowed USCIS officers to deny certain immigration benefit requests for lack of initial evidence without first sending a notice of intent to deny or request for evidence. USCIS will now revert back to the 2013 policy memo, which provides that an officer should generally issue a request for evidence or a notice of intent to deny if the officer determines that there's a possibility that the benefit request could overcome a finding of ineligibility. by submitting additional evidence.

And finally, the third policy update that USCIS announces, that effective immediately, the agency will increase the validity period of initial and extension EADs from one year to two years for certain adjustment of status applications. AILA welcomes this development as increasing the validity should reduce the number of employment authorization applications that USCIS receives, essentially freeing up the agency and its limited resources and allowing the agency to shift its resources to other priority areas.

It should also provide people with greater certainty and stability with respect to their employment authorization. Overall, AILA is delighted with these policy announcements, as these are ones that AILA has been advocating for and championing for some time to ensure that our immigration benefit system is more fair and efficient.

While these are important measures, more changes are needed. AILA will continue to advocate to ensure that USCIS is held accountable for the fair and efficient adjudication of immigration benefits.

To learn more about these policy changes, please check out the AILA website. Please also note that AILA offers a webpage that allows our members to track and monitor changes to the USCIS Policy Manual.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21061134.