April 29, 2021

U.S. Reinstates Previous Policy for Non-immigrant Extension Petitions

Effective immediately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reinstated its guidance from a 2004 adjudication policy for immigration officers to defer to prior non-immigrant petition approvals when making decisions on requests for extensions. This is permitted as long as the petition involves the same parties and facts. The change rescinds the 2017 Trump administration policy memorandum which reversed the policy of deferring to a prior adjudication.

This policy is reinstated following President Biden’s Executive Order directing immigration agencies to identify barriers to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications. The 2017 policy memorandum prohibited USCIS officers from deferring to prior approvals, even if there was no change to the circumstances within the extension petition. This led to an increase in requests for evidence (RFE) even on applications with multiple prior approvals. Now, by rescinding this policy memorandum, officers are permitted to defer to prior approvals in extension petitions where the parties and facts remain the same. Where there are material changes, if new information is available that undermines eligibility, or if there was an error in the prior adjudication, officers will not be permitted to defer to the prior approvals. By reverting to the prior 2004 policy, the intention is to reduce the number of RFEs for extension petitions and subsequently reduce processing times as well.

Per the USCIS, the new guidance also requires immigration officers to obtain supervisory approval before deviating from a prior approval on the same facts.

For further information on U.S. immigration matters, please contact contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.

Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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