Last week, a new policy for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services went into effect: a policy that allows USCIS to outright deny applications for visas and green cards that are missing evidence or have errors.
This policy will affect the roughly seven million people that apply for green cards and visas every year.
The Obama administration policy that had been governing prior to this policy gave applicants the opportunity to submit further evidence and correct mistakes prior to closing their case. While officers can still give applicants these opportunities, it is completely up to the officer’s discretion now.
If applicants are outright denied rather than given the chance to fix mistakes or enhance their evidence, applicants will suffer from more costs, paperwork, and time.
According to Michael Bars, the USCIS spokesman, the purpose of this policy is to reduce the amount of frivolous applications that USCIS receives. USCIS claims that applicants sometimes file naked applications to buy time. Bars said, “Under the law, the burden of proof is on the applicant…not the other way around.”
The new discretion that will be afforded to USCIS officers has immigration lawyers and advocates afraid. It is especially frightening because the Trump administration has been scrutinizing applications that would have been viewed as normal prior to the administration.
One immigration attorney said that USCIS “can deny you on the fact that, subjectively, they feel in their mind [the application] is not approvable…” He furthered, “It seems like they are just making every single submission difficult…Even the most standard, run-of-the-mill [application].”
Another attorney said, “People who are here legally, doing everything through proper channels, now feel as unsettled and unwelcome and uncertain about the future as people who don’t have documents.”
Making the legal immigration system feel unstable and unattainable has been a consistent theme of the Trump administration.
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