Application of Same Level of Scrutiny to Both Initial H-1B Petitions and H-1B Extensions
October 25th, 2017
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) released a policy memorandum on October 23, 2017 that instructs its officers to apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests for nonimmigrant classification filed using Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
As before, adjudicators must thoroughly review the petition and supporting evidence to determine eligibility for the benefit sought. The updated guidance instructs officers to apply the same level of scrutiny when reviewing nonimmigrant visa extension requests even where the petitioner, beneficiary and underlying facts are unchanged from a previously approved petition. While adjudicators 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.
The previous policy instructed officers to give deference to the findings of a previously approved petition, as long as the key elements were unchanged and there was no evidence of a material error or fraud related to the prior determination. The updated policy guidance rescinds the previous policy.
Under the law, the burden of proof in establishing eligibility for the visa petition extension is on the petitioner, regardless of whether USCIS previously approved a petition. The adjudicator’s determination is based on the merits of each case, and officers may request additional evidence if the petitioner has not submitted sufficient evidence to establish eligibility.
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