USCIS Issues Then Delays Implementation of Its New NTA Issuance Policy
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) September 24, 2018 – In a July 30, 2018, policy memorandum, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the implementation of its June 28, 2018, guidance for the issuance of Notices to Appear (NTA) for removal proceedings is postponed until further notice.
“In its June 28, 2018, Policy Guidance on the issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs), USCIS has cast a wide net as to whom it must issue an NTA. An NTA is the first document to place a foreign national in removal proceedings. The new policy will trap those who made innocent errors on their applications, who failed to adequately support their application or petition, or who simply did not know how and when to have filed,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “The U.S. admits more than 50 million non-immigrants each year and nearly 98 percent comply with the terms and conditions of their admission. This new policy will potentially affect all 50 million persons. Placing a foreign national in removal proceedings in immigration court means a long delay until a hearing before an immigration judge because there is a backlog of more than 700,000 removal cases.”
The updated NTA issuance policy expands the circumstances in which the agency can issue an NTA. Under the new rules, USCIS will now issue NTAs to foreign nationals for a wider range of cases where there is evidence of criminal activity, fraud, or where an applicant is unlawfully present in the United States at the time their request for an immigration benefit is denied. The issuance of an NTA initiates formal removal proceedings against foreign nationals by instructing them to appear before an immigration judge on a specific date.
The new policy is expected to dramatically increase the number of people who will be subjected to removal proceedings as it targets anyone whose application for an immigration benefit is denied, leaving them with no underlying status. It could potentially affect even individuals who have lived and worked in the United States legally for years. For example, USCIS will issue NTAs if it decides H-1B and student visa holders have fallen out of status while awaiting the agency’s decision on their change or extension of status.
USCIS is the service-oriented agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security tasked with processing immigration benefit applications and petitions. In the past, the agency referred denied immigration benefit petitions to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which would then determine whether an NTA should be issued against potentially removable foreign nationals.
The new NTA guidelines have been controversial as they significantly expand USCIS’s mandate for issuing NTAs directly without first consulting ICE. The agency will be adopting an immigration enforcement function traditionally held by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
USCIS did not indicate a date by which the new NTA issuance policy will be implemented. The agency attributed the postponement to a delay in “operational guidance” in its July 30, 2018, memorandum.