In 2018, the Trump administration pushed to cut down on legal immigration and strengthen the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to enforce immigration laws.
Among the changes were U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations and procedures that affect immigrants who entered legally the United States — particularly pertaining to deportations. However, not all of the new rules are punitive. Some help foreign citizens obtain immigration benefits such as green cards or permanent residence.
“Each year, immigration benefits are attainable for many law-abiding individuals legitimately seeking greater opportunity, prosperity, and security as newly entrusted members of society,” USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said in a statement. The immigration agency, “is committed to rule-of-law and merit-based immigration reforms that benefit U.S. workers, the American people, and our society to the greatest extent possible.”
Here is a summary by AccesoMiami.com of five changes or updates in U.S. immigration regulations that will affect immigrants in 2019.
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New deportation guidelines
A new procedure for issuing Notices to Appear or NTAs expands the list of reasons for which immigrants can be summoned to appear before immigration judges to start deportation procedures.
The updated list includes violations of federal or state programs related to “the reception of public benefits”, fraudulent or criminal activity, and denials of immigration benefits such as a visa that result in the loss of status to remain legally in U.S territory.
Denial of applications without warnings
A new guideline gives USCIS adjudicators full discretion to deny applications for immigration benefits, such as U.S. citizenship, permanent residency and visa extensions, without first issuing courtesy warnings known as Requests for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).
The two notifications gave applicants and their attorneys the opportunity to intervene by providing more documentation or correcting mistakes before adjudicators closed their cases. USCIS officials can now deny an application, petition or request if initial evidence is not submitted to establish eligibility, and proceed directly to deportation.
Bars said in his statement that under the law, “the burden of proof is on an applicant, petitioner, or requestor to establish eligibility, that is why the 2013 policy change under president Obama was among the many abuses of the immigration process, tying the hands of adjudicators and imposing a massive loophole for illegitimate petitioners to exploit our system.”
The memo, he noted, “should reduce incomplete or frivolous filings thus speeding up the immigration process for many applicants.”
Changes in the medical exam record for U.S. residency
An updated policy guidance affects the medical and vaccination examination required for determining whether a permanent residence applicant meets public health requirements for admission to the United States.
To enhance operational efficiencies, the guidance extends the validity of Form I-693, which accompanies the results of the medical exam. It can now be signed by an authorized physician up to two months before filing the underlying application for an immigration benefit.
Show joint residence in ‘marital union’ for citizenship application
A new policy guidance requires immigrants married to U.S. citizens to remain married and live together for at least three years immediately before the foreign spouse filed for the naturalization application based on marriage.
Interview waivers for green cards through marriage
USCIS adjudicators may consider waiving the interview, which is required after two years of marriage and often makes couples nervous, if there’s sufficient evidence about the authenticity of the marriage, among other conditions.