Harder to Comply, Easier to Deny – What You Need to Know About New Visa Change Policies

On July 13th, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a policy memorandum with new guidelines regarding issuing a visa application denial. The new guidelines make it both easier for the USCIS officers to deny an application and give them more authority to do so. The USCIS memo is just the latest instance of the current administration’s efforts to deliver on the controversial promise of tightening screws on immigration law and visa opportunities.

While the document states that its only purpose is to “to discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings used as ‘placeholder’ filings,” its implications for migrants and visa applicants have already invited a fair share of backlash and concerns from both immigration lawyers and advocacy groups. In this blog post, we provide the most important information concerning the new policies in question and how they may affect new visa applicants.

How Will The Application Process Change?

The new USCIS guidelines replace the previous memorandum issued by the agency in 2013. According to the previous document, if USCIS found that some key evidence supporting or establishing visa eligibility was missing from the original application, the agency was obliged to issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). This could give the applicant more time to provide any additional information that was missing or necessary. The denial could be issued immediately only if there was “no possibility” of approval – that is if no new or additional information could lead to completing the application.

The new guidelines, on the other hand, explicitly state that “the burden of proof, however, is on the applicant, petitioner, or requestor to establish eligibility” and that “if all required initial evidence is not submitted with the benefit request, USCIS in its discretion may deny the benefit request for failure to establish eligibility based on lack of required initial evidence.” In simple terms, this means that a USCIS adjudicator now has complete authority and discretion to deny an application if they find that any evidence of visa eligibility is missing. In addition, the USCIS is no longer under any obligation to specify what additional information or evidence would have been necessary for the application to be accepted. These changes effectively deny the applicants the possibility to fix the application, forcing them to re-apply and start the process from square one.

How to Avoid the Denial

The hard facts are that the visa application process – already involved and complicated in the past – has just become even more difficult. Immigrants whose application is denied will be required to re-apply and pay all the required fees again. In the case of a denial, no explanation with regards to the reasons for the lack of eligibility will now be given. Additionally, according to another memo issued by the same agency two weeks ago, USCIS will now also be able to start removal proceedings against a person without a valid immigration status if their visa application is denied.

The recent policy changes introduce a lot of uncertainty for applicants, putting a great amount of pressure on them to get all of the details of their application right the very first time they apply. This may often prove to be extremely difficult for individuals facing linguistic and cultural barriers combined with all other demands of daily life. That’s why now more than ever it is highly advisable that visa petitioners and applicants consult a qualified immigration law attorney in preparation of their petition or application.

Rotella & Hernandez are experienced immigration lawyers who have helped hundreds of individuals successfully go through the bureaucratic machine of the visa application process. We treat our clients with the dignity and understanding they deserve, using our skills and knowledge of the immigration laws to protect and promote the rights of immigrants in the United States. If you are a petitioner or an applicant, Rotella & Hernandez will look at the details of your individual case, advise with regards to the best course of action available, and help you prepare a strong case for your visa application, making sure that it contains all the necessary documentation and evidence of eligibility. Leave no aspect of your application to chance – schedule a consultation with Rotella & Hernandez today and experience comprehensive legal assistance you need and deserve.

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