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USCIS rejects certain application forms for incompleteness if any fields are left blank

  1. Date Announced

    Jan. 23, 2020

    The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman issues an alert noting that on 12/31/2019, USCIS added an alert to its form website for Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status and Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient, indicating that the agency may reject Form I-918 or Form I-918 Supplement A if a field is left blank, unless the field is optional. The Ombudsman further notes that USCIS' intake process now includes a review of the entire Form I-918 and/or I-918, Supplement A for completeness – beyond containing the proper signature, fee, and supporting documents –and that U visa forms submitted without every applicable field completed will be rejected.

    The CIS Ombudsman further notes that it has been made aware that USCIS is rejecting Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, for responses left blank. The CIS Ombudsman advises stakeholders to follow the form instructions by filling in every field on a USCIS form, even if the field is optional, has been answered elsewhere, or does not apply, in order to avoid rejection by USCIS.

    In response to Vangala v. USCIS litigation, on December 23, 2020, USCIS shared updated guidance directing adjudicators to cease rejecting asylum applications (Form I-589) and U visa applications (Form I-918) for blank spaces.

    [ID #122]

    See Biden administration action below.

    View Policy Document
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  3. Subsequent Action

    November 19, 2020

    NWIRP and NILA filed a national class action lawsuit, Vangala v. USCIS, challenging the USCIS policy of rejecting application forms with incomplete fields.

    **Litigation is listed for informational purposes and is not comprehensive. For the current status of legal challenges, check other sources.**

    Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
  4. Subsequent Action

    December 23, 2020

    On December 23, 2020, in response to the Vangala v. USCIS litigation, USCIS shared updated guidance directing adjudicators to cease rejecting asylum applications (Form I-589) and U visa applications (Form I-918). Specifically, the updated guidance rescinded prior guidance implementing the “rejection policy” instructing adjudicators to reject applications with blank response fields.

    (Link below goes to NWIRP FAQ that includes the updated policy guidance pages 5-11).

    2020.12.23 Updated Form I-589 Intake Policy for 12/23/20 Implementation
  5. Biden Administration Action

    April 1, 2021

    This Biden administration policy rescinds the Trump-era policy identified in this entry.

    On April 1, 2021, USCIS confirmed that for all forms it has reverted to the form rejection criteria it applied before October 2019 regarding blank responses. USCIS further confirmed that the agency will no longer reject Form I-589, Form I-612 or Form I-918 if an applicant leaves a blank space.

    2021.04.01 USCIS Confirms Elimination of “Blank Space” Criteria
Type of Action: Change in Practice
Agencies Affected: USCIS

Prior Policies

  • USCIS' initial intake process at the Service Centers previously focused on reviewing whether there was a proper signature, fee, and supporting documents for these applications. USCIS would not necessarily count certain blank fields as “incomplete” and would understand blank fields to mean that the item does not apply. If subsequent review by the immigration officers found relevant fields incomplete, the agency would often first issue a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID) before rejecting the application.

Subsequent Actions

Biden Administration Action

Commentary

The Trump administration’s no-blanks policy is the latest Kafkaesque plan designed to curb immigration

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AILA Policy Brief: USCIS’s “No Blank Space” Policy Leads to Capricious Rejections of Benefits Requests

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