USCIS announced yesterday that it is issuing updated policy guidance instructing officers to give deference to prior approvals in certain extension petitions and applications. Prior to 2017, USCIS’ long-standing guidance directed officers to generally defer to prior determinations of eligibility when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts as the initial petition or application. In 2017, USCIS rescinded the 2004 guidance. That rescission lead to a drastic increase in Requests for Evidence for extension filings, even though the agency had approved petitions in the past. Denials of extensions also occurred more frequently. The ultimate result of this policy was processing times reaching critical levels and inconsistent adjudications.
Recognizing that the 2017 rescission created barriers that impeded access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits, USCIS is reverting back to the 2004 guidance. This update is in accordance with President Biden’s executive order, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. Affording deference to prior approvals involving the same parties will promote efficient and fair adjudication of immigration benefits.