The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its guidelines on October 23, 2017 to apply the same level of scrutiny to initial and extension requests for nearly all nonimmigrant classifications filed using Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, most especially H-1B petitions.
Like before, Officers are instructed to review the application and supporting documentation thoroughly, however, now, even in circumstances where there has been no change in facts. The new guidance indicates that Officers may, “ultimately reach the same conclusion as in a prior decision, they are not compelled to do so as a default starting point as the burden of proof to establish eligibility for an immigration benefit always lies with the petitioner.” Previously, USCIS guidance directed Officers to give “deference” to prior determinations “as long as the key elements were unchanged and there was no evidence of a material error or fraud.” This change is a result of President Trump’s April 18th Buy American and Hire American Executive Order.
Immigration lawyers and petitioners should be prepared as the change in the burden of proof will likely result in an increase in requests for evidence (RFE) for extension petitions, especially H-1B extensions. If you receive a RFE and need help responding or have any questions regarding the change in the burden of proof for I-129 extensions, please contact us to schedule a consultation with an Immigration attorney in our office right away.