The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently began rejecting certain applications if form fields are left blank. These applications or petitions include:
- – Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal;
- – Form I-918, Petition for U Non immigrant Status (U visa) (along with I-918 Supplement B);
- – I-918 Supplement A (for certain immediate relatives of U visa applicants).
The USCIS webpage for the I-918 contains the following alert:
We may reject your Form I-918 or your Form I-918 Supplement A if you leave a field blank, unless the field is optional. Optional fields include the safe mailing address as well as fields you should only complete if you answered yes to a previous question. You must provide a response to all other questions, even if the response is “none,” “unknown” or “n/a.” We will reject a Form I-918 or a Form I-918 Supplement A that has, for example, an empty field for middle name, for current immigration status, or for information pertaining to a spouse or child. See https://www.uscis.gov/i-918
The webpage for the Form I-589 contains no such alert.
In practice, USCIS has been rejecting many types of applications for reasons that are trivial and petty and can only be described as a nefarious attempt to prevent people from applying for certain forms of immigration relief. This is especially problematic because these applications can be time barred. The I-918 Supplement B, for example, which is the law enforcement certification that a crime victim is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that activity, is only valid for six months from the date of signature or certification.
If USCIS rejects a petition due to a trivial omission, like writing “none” rather than “N/A” into the field for middle name — even when an applicant does not have a middle name — the certification may expire and the applicant may not have enough time obtain a new one. Without it, a person cannot apply for U non immigrant status, which may be the only relief for which he or she is otherwise eligible.
In the asylum context, an application for asylum must generally be filed within one year of the applicant’s last entry in the U.S. (with limited exceptions). If a Form I-589 is rejected for not putting N/A into every field in the section for a spouse, even when marital status is checked as “single” on Page 1 and the “I am not married. (Skip to Your Children below)” box is checked on Page 2, it could render an application as untimely filed and referred to the immigration court, even when federal regulations explicitly provide exceptions. The applicant’s claim would then be heard by the immigration court rather than the asylum office resulting in higher costs and delay for the applicant.
In conclusion, USCIS has a new policy of rejecting certain applications and petitions, and the other forms that go with them, for trivial omissions or because “none” is answered instead of “N/A” and vice versa. This policy includes applications by asylum seekers and victims of crime applying for U nonimmigrant status, which happen to be some of the individuals most vulnerable to deportation. Given the constant and ongoing policy changes at USCIS and the various immigration related agencies, it is essential that prospective applicants consult with an experienced and qualified immigration attorney.
Please contact Minsky McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys.