The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday issued policy guidance instructing officers to defer to previous approvals while extending work visas such as H-1B. The guidance instructs officials to generally defer to prior determinations of eligibility when the same parties and facts are involved as in the initial petition.
However, the officers may not defer to a prior approval when there is a material error, material change, or new material facts that adversely impacts the petitioner’s, applicant’s, or beneficiary’s eligibility.
The US immigration agency has basically restored its policy guidance issue in 2004 which was rescinded during the Trump administration. In 2017, the USCIS rescinded the 2004 guidance, treating each visa extension request as a new application. This requirement led to an increase in additional documentation which increased administrative burden and costs for sponsoring employers.
“With this update, USCIS is reverting in substance to prior long-standing guidance issued in 2004, which directed officers to generally defer to prior determinations of eligibility when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts as the initial petition or application,” the USCIS stated.
The agency said that the update in its policy has been made in accordance with US President Joe Biden’s executive order titled ‘Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans’. The executive order, issued in February, had directed the secretary of homeland security to identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits.
“Affording deference to prior approvals involving the same parties promotes efficient and fair adjudication of immigration benefits,” the USCIS added.
The Biden administration has undone several Trump-era immigration policies, including the suspension of employment-based nonimmigrant visas. In early April, the US department of state announced that H-1B applicants who were denied a visa due to travel ban can now reapply by submitting a new application. The department also assured that the visa applications of those who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will be prioritised and processed in accordance with the existing phased resumption of routine visa services.