New guidelines mean visas can be denied for even small errors

New USCIS guidelines allow agents to deny visa petitions for even minor clerical errors and omissions.

The Trump administration recently made changes to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) guidelines that will make it much harder for those applying for a visa - including the popular H-1B visas - to get approved. As Bloomberg reports, the new USCIS guidelines allow agents to deny visa applications that contain errors or are deemed incomplete. The revised guidelines reverse a policy of typically first asking visa applicants for additional documentation to correct their applications. Taken together with other recent changes to the visa-application process, the revisions will significantly raise the stakes for those applying for a work visa for the United States.

What the new guidelines say

The new guidelines give USCIS agents the discretion to immediately deny visa applications if the application contains any errors or is missing information. Agents are not required to ask applicants for additional evidence to help complete their applications. Nor are they required to inform denied applicants of what errors or omissions led to their application being denied. The changes will go into effect on September 11.

The new guidelines were announced soon after USCIS also announced that it would begin removal proceedings, which can lead to deportation, against those who do not have immigration status when their visa applications - including work visas - are denied.

Stakes raised for initial applications

The changes are a big deal because previously the USCIS had followed 2013 guidelines for requesting additional evidence from applicants whose petitions were deemed incomplete or which contained errors. The two changes taken together mean that agents no longer need to make requests for additional evidence. Instead, as CNN reports, visa petitions, even seemingly routine ones, could get denied for simple clerical errors. That means the stakes are extremely high for applicants to get their applications right the first time around, especially since a denied application could result in deportation from the country.

The H-1B visa, which is mainly used by tech companies, is likely to be especially impacted by the new guidelines. During the first eight months of 2017, the number of requests for evidence for H-1B visa applications soared by 45 percent, a sign that agents were already treating such applications with greater scrutiny. With the new guidelines, agents can simply deny petitions for even small errors and they do not have to notify applicants of what those errors are. Applicants will have no opportunity to fix their errors or to explain why their applications may have been missing information.

Help with work visas

As the above article shows, the stakes for visa applicants are getting higher than ever before. Even a tiny error could result in a denied application and, in some cases, the beginning of deportation proceedings. That is why it is extremely important to talk to an immigration attorney for help during every step of the visa process. An attorney can help applicants ensure they have included all necessary information and that their applications are as error-free as possible.