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Rule By Memorandum: What You Need to Know about USCIS Updates to NTA Policy

A memo published July 5 by the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlines a policy change that could have far reaching implications for those in the United States on work or student visas.

Change in Notice to Appear Policy

The July memo, which, among other decrees, instructs USCIS to issue a Notice to Appear (NTA) to an applicant, beneficiary or requestor upon the denial of an application, petition or immigration benefit request.
Prior to the July memo, NTAs were primarily issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and typically were a result of an arrest or criminal charges. USCIS focused primarily on adjudication of visa applications and extensions. The July memorandum places an additional enforcement component on an overburdened system, and combined with increased scrutiny on visa petitions and extensions, could create additional challenges for foreign nationals professionals and students in the U.S. to maintain proper immigration status.

Potential Impacts

  • NTAs could be issued during applications that were once considered routine, such as visa extensions or adjustments for new jobs
  • Increased scrutiny of specific work visas, such as H-1B visas, puts highly skilled foreign workers at particular risk. If an application for extension is denied and an NTA is issued, their H-1B status could expire before their case is reviewed
  • Green card petitions with lengthy waiting times could be impacted if a work visa is not extended and a person is issued an NTA and placed in removal proceedings
  • Once an NTA is issued, the person is subjected to the rules of the court system, which state they cannot depart the US
  • Foreign students will need to diligently monitor their status to avoid receiving an NTA

What You Can Do

We think it’s important to communicate that although immigration law in the United States has become more challenging, the new policy change is not a fundamental change in immigration processing, rather, it is a shift toward stricter enforcement.  More than ever, it is essential to be prepared. If you are applying for a visa extension or an adjustment of status, it’s important to understand every step of the petition process. Work with an immigration attorney you trust as a counsel and advocate – we have a few recommendations here. In addition to hiring an immigration attorney, there are other ways you can make sure you are prepared for the changes in enforcement:

  • Track your I-94 card to ensure US Customs and Border Protection properly marks the status and expiration
  • Track your I-94 card to ensure US Customs and Border Protection file extensions in timely manner
  • Avoid moving positions, locations, or transferring schools without speaking with Human Resources or the Designated Student Official about what impact those changes could have on your existing status.

If you have questions about how the July 5 memorandum impacts your work visa or status in the United States, please contact us today. We offer complimentary consultations and are happy to talk with you about your specific circumstances.