Many of you may know that USCIS has had a policy in place that allowed those filing an application to renew their status (H-1B, L-1, E-1, etc.) to file a ‘bare bones’ application – an application with just new information and none of the initial documentation sent in with the first application to show that the person qualified for the status. This policy stated that, assuming the underlying conditions were the same for the renewal (i.e. same employer, same position, etc.) then there was no real reason to totally re-adjudicate a case unless the officer felt that the initial approval was done in error. Just this week, USCIS changed this policy.
Before going into the new policy, you maybe asking yourself “But when I filed a renewal, I filed it with substantial documentation, did I not need to do that?”. The answer is technically no, but realistically yes. While the above policy was in place, especially over the last year (but even before that) most officers did not follow this policy to the letter. In most cases, we found that if we did not include substantial documentation, even for an H-1B renewal, showing that ALL the requirements were met, USCIS would issue a Request for Evidence. So in practice, the above policy was more of a slight leaning in favor of approving the renewal rather than the intent of the policy, which was to lighten the load of officers and those filing the cases.
So what does the new policy say? It rescinds the old policy and states that each application should be adjudicated according to its own merits regardless if it is an initial application or a renewal. In practice, it simply means that there is no longer a slight bias in favor of approving a renewal, and, instead, you will need to be more careful and ensure that you provide documentation with the renewal to show that ALL qualifications are met, even if the documentation was given with the original application. It also means that the fact that a case was approved in the past, does not mean that, if you file the same documentation, the case will be approved in the future, or that USCIS will not request additional evidence the second time around.
So while this may not change the rules as much as one may have thought on first glance, it still does change them to a certain degree. That degree will depend on the strength of the underlying case.
Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.