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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 Specifically, the updated guidance rescinded prior guidance implementing the “rejection policy” instructing adjudicators to reject applications with blank response fields.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 is 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. Subsequent Action

    July 6, 2021

    On July 6, 2021, the parties in Vangala v. USCIS entered into a tentative settlement agreement and submitted it to the court for approval.

    If approved, the settlement would allow those who had their Form I-589 or I-918 applications (and applications/petitions related to the I-918) rejected pursuant to the "No Blank Spaces" rejection policy to be able to recapture the date of the original filing. This date would control for all purposes, including determining eligibility for derivative relationships, aging out, the one-year deadline for asylum applications, and employment authorization eligibility.

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

    2021.07.07
  6. Subsequent Action

    July 20, 2021

    On July 20, 2021, a federal district court judge in Oakland, California, approved a final settlement in the case of Vangala v. USCIS, providing relief to over sixty thousand applicants for humanitarian immigration benefits. The lawsuit, filed on November 19, 2020, against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), challenged an agency policy adopted under the Trump administration specifically targeting humanitarian benefits for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking and asylum seekers. Under the policy, USCIS rejected applications that left any question in the application unanswered, even where the question was not applicable—for example where the applicant failed to include a response for middle name because they have no middle name. Additionally, USCIS rejected applications where the applicant wrote “none” or “not applicable” instead of “N/A.”

    Under the settlement agreement, USCIS will accept the original submission date of the more than sixty thousand applications it has identified as having been rejected under the policy. USCIS will send notices to these applicants explaining the steps they can take to ensure that their applications for humanitarian benefits are recorded as having been filed as of the date they were originally submitted.

    In addition, the settlement agreement prevents the agency from adopting a similar rejection policy with respect to other immigration forms unless authorized by statute or lawfully implemented through regulations.

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

    Vangala v. USCIS, No. 4:20-cv-08143-HSG (N.D. Cal., July 20, 2021).
  7. 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
Status: Final/Actual
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

Go to article

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

Go to article

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