(CNN) — The Biden administration announced Thursday that it will not automatically reject certain applications for asylum or immigration benefits when blank space is left on the forms, a reversal of a Trump-era policy that critics said was a blatant attempt to crack down on legal immigration.
During the Trump administration, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rejected applications for certain immigration benefits, including asylum and relief for victims of certain crimes, based on parts of the form that were left blank, meaning the application would be sent back to the applicant.
The Trump-era rule increased the likelihood of rejections amid other policies that stifled legal immigration, such as suspending much of family immigration amid the pandemic and wiping out asylum.
Some examples of fields that can be left blank include middle name, passport or travel document number, and ‘other names used’ depending on the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“We will not automatically reject your form if you leave a space blank. However, we may reject your form or your case could take longer if you leave the required spaces blank, if you do not answer the questions related to submission requirements, or if you omit any initial evidence required, as indicated in the instructions or Form Regulations, ”the USCIS website read Thursday.
The change returns the process to what it was before October 2019.
USCIS had reverted to the 2019 process in December 2020, before President Joe Biden took office, in response to stakeholder concerns, according to agency spokeswoman Anita Ríos Moore. The agency confirmed Thursday that for all forms it has reverted to pre-Trump policy regarding blank responses.
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Describing Trump-era politics, Moore said in a statement: “USCIS implemented this intake process from October 2019 to December 2020 to improve operational efficiency and ensure that the agency had all the information we need to adjudicate an application. or request. Incomplete applications or requests slow down processing by requiring us to issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs), which extends processing times for applicants in need of humanitarian protection.
Late last year, the agency agreed to stop implementing the policy of rejecting asylum applications and visa applications for victims of certain crimes as a result of litigation, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
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The revocation “increases the predictability that these applications will be accepted and seriously considered, as they should, to consider whether an applicant qualifies for an immigration benefit,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, adding that the change in the Trump era “increased the chances that an applicant would be deterred from reapplying.”
Pierce noted that the Trump-era policy rollback is also likely beneficial to USCIS, as it eliminates the additional step of returning an application because part of a form is not completed, which can be quite common.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism