USCIS Expands Authority to Deny Immigration Benefits Filings Without Requests for Evidence

July 17, 2018

On July 13, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new guidance memo for its adjudicators indicating that commencing on September 11, 2018, adjudicators may deny any and all applications or petitions without first issuing requests for evidence (RFE) or notices of intent to deny (NOID) if the original submission filed with the agency lacks initial evidence to establish eligibility for the specific benefit sought.

The applications relate both to family-based applications and employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions. For instance, U.S. petitioning companies submitting H-1B or L-1 petitions and extensions of stay would be subject to this policy, as would a U.S. citizen filing for a parent, child or spouse.

The new guidance specifically withdraws a prior agency policy that permitted adjudicators to deny cases without an RFE or NOID only if there was no possibility that additional evidence could rectify a delinquent filing. The new guidance may be reviewed here.

This guidance comes on the heels of a significant agency memorandum issued on June 28, 2018, in which USCIS initiates expanded enforcement priorities, which would negatively affect the consequences of a petition or application denial. USCIS has stated it would commence initiating removal (deportation) proceedings against those whose applications for an immigration benefit – i.e. – an extension of nonimmigrant stay or an application for adjustment of status – had expired.

The agency’s role, which has historically been benefits-focused, appears to be shifting to an enforcement-based initiative. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna, commented on the updated guidance stating that "For too long, USCIS officers uncovering instances of fraudulent or criminal activity have been limited in their ability to help ensure U.S. immigration laws are faithfully executed. This updated policy equips USCIS officers with clear guidance that they need and deserve to support the enforcement priorities established by the president, keep our communities safe and protect the integrity of our immigrant system from those seeking to exploit it.”

This policy would also affect changes of status, student applications and other related petitions. It should not affect most DACA requests.

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