USCIS Changes Adjudication Standard for I-129 Renewals

B61D08D2-1849-4FCD-9897-F0AC03874CFFMany 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.

O and P Visa Delays and Premium Processing

images-1.jpegThose who are filing for either O or P status should know that, surprise, the processing time listed on the USCIS website for O and P visas is incorrect.

Currently, USCIS California Service Center is listing a processing time of 2 weeks.  Unfortunately the actual time period is 8-10 weeks, considerable longer.  And this is assuming that there is no RFE.

The Vermont Service Center on its October 15, 2015 timeline report stated it was only taking them 2 weeks to adjudicate O and P visas.  As of the November 17, 2015 timeline report, they are now stating that they are only at June 29, 2015.  This new report is certainly a more accurate date, there is no question of that.  However it should be noted that, as of October 15, 2015 they were NOT processing cases in a two week time frame either.  That report listed an “as of date” (i.e. each report has a date that shows that the timeframes they are discussing are current “as of” a certain date) of August 31,2015.  The November 17, 2015 lists an “as of” date of 9/30/2015.  So, according to all the dates, the Vermont Service Center is saying that, as of August 31, 2015 they were adjudicating cases submitted on August 15, 2015, but then, as of September 30, 2015 they were only adjudicating cases submitted as of June 29, 2015.  I am certain I am not the only one who finds this odd.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course when dealing with posted timeframes and USCIS.  One is never sure if the actual timeframe listed is the actual timeframe, the wished upon timeframe, or somewhere in between.

It is good to remember that, for O and P visa applications one can actually file up to one year in advance of the need, so it pays to plan in advance.  Of course there is always the option of using bribery, I mean Premium Processing, for an additional $1225, in which case USCIS will process your case within 15 days.

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.