BOSTON–With little fanfare, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just made a sweeping new policy, effective immediately, that could result in more visa applicants being deported from the United States.
Described by immigration attorneys as “a major shift in how USCIS operates,” the agency now plans to initiate removal proceedings against virtually any applicant who lacks immigration status at the moment their visa application is denied.
“This new policy is creating even more uncertainty for visa applicants, who now face a likelier prospect of dealing not only with USCIS but also the immigration courts,” said Doug Rand, president and co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps families navigate the immigration process. “This makes having experienced legal counsel all the more essential.”
Mr. Rand said that before this change, a foreign national on a student visa could apply for a different kind of visa (e.g. an H-1B work visa), and even if initially found to be “out of status,” they could generally look for ways to fix this problem with USCIS.
“Under the new policy, even if the student violated the terms of their student visa by accident, they could be immediately placed in removal proceedings—and under another recent USCIS policy change, they could be barred from the United States for up to 10 years,” said Mr. Rand.
For example, imagine a student on an F-1 visa who’s authorized to work on campus half-time, said Mr. Rand.
“One week during her junior year, she inadvertently works three extra hours. A little over a year later, she and a U.S. employer file the paperwork for an H-1B visa, and USCIS flags this technical violation for the first time, denying her H-1B visa application and declaring her in violation of her F-1 status as well,” Mr. Rand said. “Previously, she would have been able to seek other visa options through USCIS, but under the new policy, USCIS issues a “Notice to Appear” and places her in removal proceedings—how she has to convince an immigration judge to let her stay in the U.S., which is much more expensive and uncertain. And if she does get deported, under another recent USCIS policy change, she will be barred from the United States for 10 years.”
If visa denied, what should the applicant do?
“This new policy is creating even more uncertainty for visa applicants, who now face a likelier prospect of dealing not only with USCIS but also the immigration courts,” Mr. Rand said. “This makes having experienced legal counsel all the more essential.