USCIS: Asylum applications left blank will no longer be returned

USCIS has issued new rules that asylum application forms and three other forms left blank will no longer be returned across the board, reverting to the pre-2019 practice. (Fotolia)

On April 1, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it confirmed that USCIS will no longer automatically return all three application forms, including the asylum application form (Form I-589), to applicants for leaving unfilled spaces on the application form, i.e., reverting to the pre-October 2019 return standard.

The current I-589 asylum application, on page 4, item 5, leaves six blank lines, which are the fields for filling in parents and siblings. (Screenshot of USCIS webpage)

In 2019, USCIS had raised the requirements for filling out three application forms, such as the application for political asylum, by not allowing the form’s response box to be left blank (blank response), or the application form will be automatically returned. The three application forms are Form I-589, Form I-612, and Form I-918. Form I-589 is a petition for asylum and a petition to stay deportation, Form I-612 is a petition for waiver of the foreign residency requirement, and Form I-918 is a U visa petition for victims of specified criminal offenses. Today, these three forms are no longer returned across the board for having blank responses.

But “no blanket return” does not mean “no return” if the applicant is required to provide initial evidence in the required fields – the fields that relate to compliance with the application criteria and the fields that require initial evidence. If the applicant responds with a blank in the required fields – the fields that relate to compliance with the application criteria and the fields that require initial evidence – then the USCIS will return the application or take more time to process the case.

New York attorney David Chu said the new rule “reduces the burden on the applicant because it has nothing to do with misrepresentation” and that leaving the application form blank “is a mistake that people make all the time, and lawyers make this mistake accidentally. “, the petition forms submitted to USCIS are generally long and leaving blanks in some parts of the form is something that can easily occur.

He took the example of asylum applicants on Form I-589 being asked to fill in their parents and brothers. In the current version of the I-589 application form, the fourth page asks for background information about the asylum applicant, and the fifth item is to fill in the names and addresses of the applicant’s parents and siblings, and USCIS leaves six lines of blank areas to be filled in on this form for the mother, father, and the remaining four lines for the siblings ( sibling).

“When family planning was implemented in China, most people were born without siblings, so he only filled in the form with his mother and father”, Zhu Wei said even if the applicant has a sister and a brother, according to the strict criteria for filling in the form after 2019, “after filling in the form, there are still blanks at the bottom If the applicant has a sister or a brother, the form will be returned to the applicant. Even some lawyers were not sure why the application form was returned, and Zhu Wei reminded them to see if there were blanks left in the sibling column. “This is also a normal expression”, but according to that strict standard, “each line should be filled in with ‘None’ (‘None’), ‘None’, ‘None’, ‘None’ and ‘None’. ‘None’, and ‘None’ in order to not be returned.”

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has given examples in the past of applicants who leave options blank on their forms to USCIS regarding middle name, great name, name in native language, passport or travel document number, and the new 2019 regulations will return those applications as incomplete.

Zhu Wei said that usually the I-612 form is related to some aliens’ visas, such as marriage visas, and usually the I-918 form is related to some victims of violent crimes, than these applications, asylum applications have more stringent deadline requirements. Therefore, if the I-589 form is returned, the asylum applicant may be delayed in filing it, and the application may be adversely affected.

The I-589 asylum application requires the applicant to apply within one year of entry into the U.S. If the applicant’s form is returned and the resubmission exceeds the one-year deadline for entry, the USCIS may make it more difficult to approve the asylum case on the grounds that it does not meet the one-year deadline for filing the application. Although many cases show that the court usually adopts the time of the applicant’s first submission as the basis, it is an additional response, Zhu Wei said. Application forms are returned as quickly as a month, usually two or three months, and he has heard from attorneys who have received returned applications six months after they were submitted. He feels that by not returning all applications, the USCIS can save both parties “time, energy, manpower and material resources.

Zhu Wei reminded applicants that this new rule does not mean that any space can be left blank. For example, he said, “the Yes (Yes) or No (No) option must still be filled in strictly,” “married people asked for information about their spouse also need to fill in,” “asked whether they have been arrested in the United States before, also need to fill in “, leaving a blank is not returned only for some information that does not affect the case processing.

He feels that there is a recent momentum of speeding up the USCIS process, “now the case is moving faster”. In early March he helped a U.S. citizen apply for immigration for his father, and after filing the I-130 form, he received an approval notice on April 1, which took only twenty days, “This kind of speed was not available before, it used to be maybe six months to a year.”