USCIS Clarifies: Original Signatures Still Required on Forms

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently clarified that original signatures are still required for nearly all USCIS forms. This notice comes following the release of an interim policy memorandum in June 2016 that seemed to signal original signatures would no longer be mandatory. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.

Confusion Created by Policy Memo on Signatures

On June 7, 2016, the USCIS issued an interim policy memo, entitled Signatures on Paper Applications, Petitions, Requests, and Other Documents Filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The memo states that a signature on a USCIS form is to be considered valid even if the signature has been “photocopied, scanned, faxed, or similarly reproduced,” as long as the form being copied contains an original, ink signature. The memo states that this rule applies “… unless otherwise provided by regulation or form instructions.”

Form Instructions Render Memo Meaningless

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) contacted the USCIS to verify that forms with original ‘wet ink’ signatures would no longer be required. The USCIS responded in the negative, noting that virtually all USCIS forms indicate that only an original signature will be accepted. For instance, the instructions for the I-129 form state, “Each petition must be properly signed and filed. A photocopy of a signed petition or a typewritten name in place of a signature is not acceptable.” As noted by AILA, such form instructions render this portion of the memo “essentially meaningless.” While the USCIS may change this requirement in form instructions in the future, at this time, there is no indication that the agency has any plans to do so.

Conclusion

It is disappointing that the USCIS has yet to allow for the filing of petitions and applications that do not include original signatures. Still, the fact that this memo was released at least makes it easier for the USCIS to change this policy by simply editing form instructions and being open to form submissions online in the future for a more streamlined system that will allow for more expeditious filings.

 

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