USCIS Updates Criteria for Expedite Requests and Issuance of RFEs / NOIDs22 Jun 2021
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued policy revisions to the USCIS Policy Manual with regard to the criteria for expedite requests by applicants and petitioners, as well as the issuance of requests for evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs). These policy changes are to provide greater flexibility to foreign nationals and their employers and minimize the number of unnecessary rejections and denials due to simple errors.
Prior USCIS Policy on Expedite Requests
In general, the USCIS has the authority to grant an expedite request on an application or petition that is not eligible for premium processing service. Historically, the USCIS has been reluctant to grant expedite requests, limiting the eligibility criteria and requiring substantial documentation and evidence for any such request. These criteria include urgent humanitarian reasons, compelling U.S. government interests, clear USCIS error, and severe financial loss to a company or person.
Current Policy Provides Greater Flexibility to Grant Expedite Requests
The Trump Administration made obtaining expedited service even more challenging. However, the recent updates to the expedite criteria are in line with the Biden Administration’s priority of reducing administrative waste and providing more flexibility to its stakeholders.
The general eligibility criteria remain largely the same. However, the USCIS will give wider discretion to requests in the following situations:
- For nonprofit organizations whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States, even when premium processing is available for that benefit
- For certain emergencies, such as a critical need to travel to obtain time-sensitive medical treatment
- Financial loss to an individual, such as inability to travel for work that would result in job loss
Expansion of Terms to Help Employers and Employees
Notably, the language used to describe the expedite criteria has been broadened from the changes made under the prior Trump Administration. For instance, expediting a request to avoid severe financial loss to a company had been limited to a company that is “at risk of failing.” The updated guidance broadens this to “risk of failing, losing a critical contract, or required to lay off other employees.” Further, in reference to an expedite request for an individual’s application for employment authorization, the updated guidance notes that “job loss may be sufficient to establish severe financial loss for a person, depending on the individual circumstances.”
Return to Previous RFE and NOID Issuance Policy
The USCIS is returning to the adjudicative principles of a June 2013 policy memorandum that instructed USCIS officers to default to the issuance of an RFE or NOID where additional evidence potentially could demonstrate eligibility for an immigration benefit. As part of the updated RFE and NOID policy, the USCIS is rescinding a July 2018 policy memorandum that permitted USCIS officers to deny certain immigration benefit requests without first issuing an RFE or NOID. This return to the June 2013 policy will prevent unnecessary rejections and denials and a potential loss of eligibility due to a missed deadline, in some cases.
The recent updates to the USCIS Policy Manual are welcome changes that will help to improve the quality and flexibility of the services provided by the USCIS to many foreign nationals and their employers. The Murthy Law Firm is available to assist individuals with questions regarding these and other important policy changes that finally recognize and embrace the history of the U.S. as a nation of immigrants.
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