US Immigration News

How is Biden’s Recent Immigration Policies Affecting US Processing Times?

3.5 minute read
"Since his election to office, President Joe Biden has introduced several executive actions and related legal measures to improve US immigration. Many of these changes will affect the functioning of government agencies like the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the application and petition process of many visa categories."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jun 2, 2021
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Since his election to office, President Joe Biden has introduced several executive actions and related legal measures to improve US immigration. Many of these changes will affect the functioning of government agencies like the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the application and petition process of many visa categories. 

Currently, the USCIS is facing many challenges including long waiting times, higher denial rates and an increasing backlog of pending applications. The agency may have to lay off employees due to higher operational costs that outpace the fee collected. 

President Biden has directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify issues that hinder access to immigration benefits and ensure that these benefits are adjudicated fairly under an executive order. This executive order is known as ‘Restoring Faith in Our Legal Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.’ 

What Effect Will This Executive Order Have on US Immigration?

Deference to Past Decisions: 

The USCIS recently announced a policy guideline instructing officials to defer to previous determinations when deciding on extension requests. Before former President Trump was in office, the USCIS had a long-standing policy that required officials to defer to previous determinations when adjudicating visa extension requests of the concerned applicant. It means that a Green Card, Permanent Resident Card renewal must be processed quickly unless there was new information that would require further review. A renewal for a DACA permit must be generally approved unless new factors suggest that the applicant is no longer eligible. 

This policy guideline ensured lower processing times and a faster renewal process. 

However, in 2017, this policy was revoked by the Trump administration. The USCIS officials were instructed to review in-depth for visa extensions, which increased the denial rate and cost the agency more money and time. By reinstating this policy guideline, President Biden hopes to save USCIS officials a lot of effort and increase processing times for visa extensions.

Blank Space Rejection Rule: 

The USCIS implied strange criteria that were considered absurd by many. In 2019, USCIS started to reject certain forms and applications that had any blank spaces. This led to a spike in rejection rates as many applications were rejected for having blank spaces even in areas that were not relevant to the applicant.

This also further added to the processing times. Recently, the USCIS announced that it has discontinued its ‘blank space rejection rule.’ However, applicants must still avoid the following if they don’t want their application to be rejected:

  • Leave mandatory answers blank
  • Leave questions related to filing requirements blank
  • Omit any supporting documents requested to complete the application

Doing the above will lead to a long wait and processing time and may even get your application rejected.

Public Charge Rule: 

The Trump administration changed the long-standing public charge rule to make it difficult for low-income immigrants to gain permanent residence in the US. It essentially became a wealth test that made it harder for many immigrants to even qualify.

The new public charge rule under President Trump required immigrants to fill out Form I-199, Declaration of Self Sufficiency. Receiving any government-provided public benefits could lead to the rejection of your green card application. However, President Biden has put an end to this Trump-era rule. Now, public charge requirements are the same as they were before the Trump presidency. 

Immigrant Visa Ban Reversal: 

President Trump issued a presidential proclamation to ban certain visa categories last year as a move to protect American jobs during the pandemic. This ban prevented almost 525,000 foreign nationals from entering the US legally. This ban also disrupted the economy, caused the continued separation of thousands of families and prevented businesses from hiring essential employees. President Biden revoked the ban on immigrant visa categories in February 2021 while the ban on nonimmigrant visa categories naturally ended on March 31, 2021.

Resumption of Immigration Services: 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the US consulate and embassies had to shut down operations last year. This affected many USCIS operations. All in-person visa interview appointments, biometric information collections and oath ceremonies had to be canceled. New applications were being accepted, however, due to partial functioning, the processing times grew even longer. As the vaccination drive rolls out in different parts of the world, it is expected that immigration operations will gradually return to normal.

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