U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced three updates to the USCIS Policy Manual. The updates will clarify the circumstances and criteria for expedited processing, determine the circumstances in which reviewing officers should issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs), and extend the validity period for new and renewal employment authorization documents (EADs) for some noncitizens with pending adjustment of status applications.
The changes to the USCIS Policy Manual consist with Executive Order 14012, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” that was issued by President Biden on February 2, 2021. The Executive Order instructs federal agencies to formulate inclusive strategies and eliminate barriers that inhibit access to immigration benefits.
In accordance with Executive Order 14012, the USCIS Policy Manual has been updated with three key changes:
- Expedited processing
- RFEs and NOIDs
USCIS will update Volume 1, Part A of its Policy Manual to clarify relevant criteria and circumstances for expedited processing. Specifically, USCIS will clarify what it considers to be an “emergency situation” that warrants expedited processing, including a critical need to travel for medical treatment in a short period of time. The updated guidance also clarifies that expedited processing for noncitizens’ applications is coordinated between USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in cases where applicants are pending removal or are involved in removal proceedings.
Regarding RFEs and NOIDs, USCIS will return to its original policy, issued in 2013, that instructs officers to issue RFEs on cases submitted with insufficient evidence before denying the cases altogether, except in limited circumstances where there is no possibility that the case could be approved even with additional evidence. USCIS rescinded and replaced this initial policy in 2018 with stricter guidance that allowed officers to deny benefit requests for lack of initial evidence without first issuing an RFE or a NOID.
Finally, the USCIS Policy Manual updates will address EAD validity. USCIS will extend the validity of initial and renewal EADs to two years for certain adjustment of status applicants. Currently, new and renewal EADs have a one-year validity. The change is designed to alleviate processing delays and the number of employment authorization requests that USCIS receives. In turn, that allows USCIS to divert resources to other priority areas. It is also intended to reduce the burden on individuals who are awaiting adjudication of their adjustment of status applications.
Updates will be provided as available on additional changes to the USCIS Policy Manual and USCIS operations.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Ian Love, who is a Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), Envoy’s affiliated law firm.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.