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USCIS issues ‘deference to previous decisions’ policy guidance: Important details and information

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reverted to pre-Trump era policy regarding adjudicating and processing visa extensions, which has important implications for certain visa holders seeking extensions.

The agency announced earlier this week it was “instructing officers to give deference to prior determinations when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts unless there was a material error, material change, or new material facts.”

In practical terms, the announcement will allow USCIS officers to defer to previous determinations of eligibility while adjudicating extension requests, as long as they involve the same parties and facts included in the initial petition.

The policy allowing deference to previous decisions had been in place from 2004-2017 but was rescinded early during the administration of former President Donald Trump. The announcement from USCIS in late April officially reimplements the prior long-standing guidance and is effective immediately.

“Affording deference to prior approvals involving the same parties promotes efficient and fair adjudication of immigration benefits,” the announcement from USCIS read.

Executive order on ‘restoring faith’ in legal immigration system

The reversion was prompted by the “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans” Executive Order, which was signed by President Joe Biden in early February.

The order instructed the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive review of recent regulations and policies to ensure they align with the government’s goal of promoting “integration, inclusion and citizenship” during the Biden administration.

“President Biden believes that immigrants are essential to who we are as a nation and critical to our aspirations for the future,” the White House wrote in a press release about the order. “The prior administration enacted hundreds of policies that run counter to our history and undermine America’s character as a land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all who come here seeking protection and opportunity.”

That executive order also led to the rolling back of a Trump era initiative that substantially changed the Naturalization Civics Test and the vacating of the controversial “public charge” rule.

Additionally, Biden recently repealed a Trump proclamation that temporarily barred certain individuals from entering the U.S. as Immigrants. He also allowed an order that had suspended entry into the United States of certain employment-based nonimmigrant visa holders to expire. Both were initially issued by the prior administration in 2020.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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