WASHINGTON: US authorities can now reject a visa application, petition or request — including possibly for H-1B visas — over mistakes and missing documents without offering the applicant a chance to correct the error.
Other applicants affected are those want to stay in the US as lawful permanent residents (on a Green Card) or immigrants, those who wish to stay temporarily and work as non-immigrants, or those who are applying for US citizenship.
Around seven million such applications are filed and adjudicated every year. However, applicants for short-term visas for travel or business are not expected to be affected.
The new rule, which went into effect on Tuesday, has been called a “major shift” by immigration lawyers, activists and those likely to be impacted. They say the new rule could make the procedure more expensive, lengthy, and may even lead to deportation, if an applicant already in the US fall out of status during the process.
It will impact Indians on H-1B or other short-term stay and work non-immigrant visas, who plan to seek permanent residency on the Green Card — an estimated 9,800 Indians obtain work-related Green Cards a year.
“All applications, petitions, and requests received after the effective date will be subject to the new policy, except for DACA adjudications,” said a US official on background, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme that protects from deportation people who illegally arrived in the US when they were minors.
“This policy change is part of an ongoing effort to help faithfully execute and protect the integrity of our laws, cut down on frivolous applications, reduce waste, and help ensure legitimate, law abiding petitioners seeking greater safety, security and prosperity aren’t undermined by those able to game our system,” said Michael Bars, spokesperson for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In June, the USCIS had said that the new rule intended to “discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings” intentionally filed as “placeholder”, essentially to book their place in the queue and start a conversation through the back and forth ensued with a Request For Evidence (RFE) and a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).
“It is not intended to penalise filers for innocent mistakes or misunderstandings of evidentiary requirements,” the agency had said.
It replaces an Obama-era rule from 2013 that mandated adjudicating officials of the USCIS to issue REF or NOID in all cases of errors and missing documents unless the applicant was prohibited under law from being advanced to the next stage.
An activist working with an advocacy group that speeds up the process for Indians waiting in queue for their Green Card, who did not wish to be named, said the new rule is a “major and dramatic shift”.
More than 3,00,000 primary visa-holders India are in that queue, with the number going up to 1.5 million if one includes dependents and those in the process of applying. According to one estimate, their wait time is 151 years, at the current rate of clearance of cases.
“The net takeaway (of this measure) is that this is fundamentally a series of connected events that are designed to disadvantage lower-income families and increase deportations,” Xiao Wang of Boundless Immigration, a company claims to be the largest provider of deals with marriage Green Card services, said.__Hindustan Times