On April 15, 2010 under the leadership of Alejandro Mayorkas, USCIS launched the first ever policy review of the agency’s adjudication and customer service policies.
The goal of the policy review is to update, consolidate and to streamline all existing USCIS policies from all sources including training manuals, the Adjudicator’s Field Manual, operational instructions and other guidance memoranda.
The policy review has been divided into four stages and the first two stages of (1) information gathering; and (2) issue area prioritization have now been completed. Recently, the Agency announced the results of its survey to determine which of its substantive areas should be subject to the complete policy review first. The Agency has announced ten areas that will be given first priority. These include:
- National Customer Service Center,
- H-1B applications, naturalization and citizenship,
- Rmployment-based adjustment of status,
- Family-based adjustment of status,
- Employment-based preference categories 1, 2 and 3,
- Refugee and asylum adjustment of status,
- Form I-601 for fraud waivers
- Employment authorization and travel documents.
Now that the first areas for review have been identified, USCIS is establishing issue area working groups by gathering subject matter experts from within the Agency to begin to review all of the policies. The working groups will review the substantive content to make sure that they reflect the Agency’s commitment to consistency and efficiency. The working groups are charged with revising, updating and deleting policies as well as reconciling inconsistent and redundant policies.
Once the policies in each subject matter area have been reviewed, updated and consolidated, they will be compiled into an electronic resource. The resource will be available internally for the USCIS adjudicators as well as to the public.
The Agency-wide policy review is an extremely overdue, but welcome, development from the new Director. So far, the Agency has moved quickly to complete the first two steps, but now the hard work must begin. Immigration attorneys, and other stakeholders such as members of the non-profit world, foreign national applicants themselves and others involved in the immigration process should all be consulted and, where possible, included in the USCIS working groups. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has been actively seeking to have its members join, or in the least, provide advice and counsel to the internal working groups.
While it is always welcome from an application standpoint to have clear guidance on what is required and what evidentiary standards exist, it can also sometimes be problematic if the guidance leads to a more narrow reading of a particular statute, regulation, or a requirement. Confusion, uncertainty and inconsistency, are not always a bad thing when those factors fall in an applicant’s favor. As an advocate, I only hope that USCIS will carefully consider all points of view when consolidating and updating their policies, and that this large undertaking will serve the interests of my clients and not hurt it.