USCIS Updates Policy Manual to Improve Processing

Photo Curtesy of Evgenia Parajanian

USCIS has issued three updates to its policy manual as part of a continuing effort to improve processing times and reduce barriers to legal immigration. 

The latest changes came on June 9th, when USCIS announced updates to its policies on:  expedited processing, requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny, and employment authorization documents. Like other recent updates to USCIS policies, the updates were spurred on by President Biden’s February 2nd Executive Order 14102, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. 

Here’s our quick overview of all the latest policy changes at USCIS.

Expedited Processing

Petitioners who need their case processed urgently have always had the option to request that USCIS consider expediting adjudication of their case. However, USCIS granting such requests  has always been extremely rare, and there were no clear guidelines on who might qualify. 

USICS’ latest policy updates aimed to correct this by clarifying the criteria on who may be eligible for expedited processing. As per USCIS, the agency may consider an expedite request which meets one or more of the following criteria and conditions:

  • There was a clear USCIS error
  • Waiting for adjudication could cause severe financial loss to a company or person
  • Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons
  • 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)

Additionally the policy update allows registered non-profits to request expedited processing if their request “is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States”.

Requests for Evidence and Notices Of Intent to Deny

Out of all of June 9th’s changes to USCIS policy, the new rules on requests for evidence and notices of intent to deny will undoubtedly be the most impactful for EB-5 investors. Previously, as per a 2018 memo, USCIS adjudicators were not required to send a request for evidence or notice of intent to deny when a petition lacked evidence, they could simply deny it. This was in stark contrast to the previous 2013 policy that USCIS adjudicators were required to issue a request for evidence or notice of intent to deny before a petition was denied. USCIS has now rescinded that 2018 memo and reinstated its previous policy, requiring adjudicators to issue requests for evidence and notices of intent to deny.

With the 2013 policy back in place, EB-5 investors who may have been denied due to unclear or insufficient documentation are all but guaranteed a second chance to fix their mistakes and ensure they’ll be approved. 

Employment Authorization Documents 

As you might already know, employment authorization documents(EADs) allow those waiting for their I-485 petition to be processed to continue legally working in the US. In recent years wait times have climbed for I-485s and investors could find themselves still waiting for their status to be adjusted after the one year validity period of their EAD was up. 

In response USCIS has increased the validity period of EADs to two years. This will allow investors to continue to work for longer while waiting for their status to be adjusted, and reduce the number of EADs USCIS will need to process, freeing up agency resources to tackle adjudications directly

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