A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Side Effects of the New Immigration Policies: Longer Processing Time and Tighter Adjudication Standards

Under the new administration, the U.S. immigration policy has focused on enforcement and restriction.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, has been making record number of arrests of foreigners in the United States. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the agency that is responsible for securing our borders, is also tightening up admission standards at the airports and other ports of entry.

Tighter Adjudication Standards 
Even the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), supposedly the nice guys, are also making some significant policy changes in various aspects of the immigration process.  Most noticeably, USCIS is applying much tighter adjudication standards when reviewing nonimmigrant visa petitions such as H-1B and L-1 petitions.  Immigration practitioners are complaining about getting lengthy Requests for Evidence and denials on cases that would have been approved without further inquiries before. 

Preconceived Immigrant Intent
Regarding immigrant visa petitions, some offices of USCIS are also bringing up issue of "preconceived immigrant intent" during the adjudication of adjustment applications.  Applicants who came here on temporary visitor visas such as B-1 (for business) or B-2 (for pleasure) are heavily scrutinized.  Questions are asked during the adjustment interview to ascertain whether they had immigrant intent at the time of entry: Did they apply for extensions of status? What were the nature and purposes of their initial visits? Did they work without authorization? 

Longer Processing Times
Another side effect of the new policies are slower processing times.  For instance, in the NY/NJ area, the processing time of a family adjustment application used to be about 4 to 6 months.  Since 2016, the processing time has become much longer.  Family adjustment in NJ is now taking about 8 months or longer to process.  The N-400 Naturalization applications are also taking much longer to process. 

The employment petitions are also taking longer to process.  While the Texas Service Center (TSC) still has reasonable processing times, the Nebraska Service Center (NSC)'s processing time are much slower.  For instance, NSC is taking one year or longer to process an I-140 petition based on the multinational manager category or with a national interest waiver.  Change of status applications (I-539) is taking about 6 months to process at the Vermont Service Center (VSC).  H-1B petitions are also taking longer to adjudicate; premium processing has been suspended for most cases.  Many of the FY2018 CAP H-1B petitions submitted in April are still pending. 

There has also been reports that the Trump Administration is implementing a policy to interview about 130,000 employment-based visa applicants in connection with their adjustment applications. Green card holders and students may also be included under this new policy when they apply for change or extension of status. 

Conclusion
Under the current processing schedule, applicants of immigration benefits are encouraged to submit the applications as soon as possible.  Procrastination is no longer an option. In many situations, failure to submit a timely application means that one would have the depart the country. Time is of the essence is truer than ever. 

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