A recent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency policy shift is allowing government officials to automatically reject visa applications if forms are not completely filled out, leading some of the most vulnerable applicants to have their cases immediately ruled out.
According to the Washington Post, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has collected as many as 140 examples of visa applicants struggling to have their cases approved due to “incomplete” forms.
For Yolanda, an undocumented Guatemalan mother in her 40s who sought a U-visa, which is meant to help victims of crime who assist law enforcement stay in the U.S., the fact that her son does not have a middle name appeared to be one of the reasons her application was denied.
The Legality of Trump’s Assault on Refugees Is Only Half the Question
Yolanda, whose middle name has been used by The Post to protect her identity, is being represented by the Immigration Center for Women and Children, a nonprofit supporting immigrant families, told the Post that she had applied for the visa after enduring a harrowing sexual assault.
Having been undocumented for more than a decade, Yolanda told The Post that she was initially afraid to apply for the U-visa. However, lawyers told her she had a “slam-dunk case,” according to the newspaper, so after months of deliberating, she decided to bring her case forward.
USCIS reportedly rejected her application, however, asserting that her filing was incomplete. The reason, she was told, according to The Post, was because she had left boxes that did not apply to her blank, including a section requesting her son’s middle name, which she left blank because he does not have one.
In a statement on AILA’s website, the organization warns that reports that immigration applications have been denied “due to claimed incompleteness have recently grown more frequent.”
AILA said the rise has come after USCIS, in October, added the following lines to the agency’s application forms: “We will not accept your Form I-589 if you leave any fields blank. You must provide a response to all questions on the form, even if the response is ‘none,’ ‘unknown’ or ‘n/a’.”
If that is the case, Jessica Farb, an attorney representing Yolanda, said: “There’s going to be just hundreds of people processed under the Trump administration who will legally have the middle name ‘N/A’.”
Now, as a result of the roadblock in Yolanda’s case, her eldest son, whom the U-visa program had allowed her to include as part of here application, no longer can no longer qualify, since he has turned 21, passing the age of eligibility.
Yolanda’s family is not the only one affected by the policy, however.
In one case, an 8-year-old child who had “none” listed when questioned on their employment history, reportedly had their application denied after leaving the dates of their employment history blank.
Meanwhile, another applicant had their application denied after listing the three siblings they had, but leaving a box on the form with space for a fourth blank, according to The Post.
Newsweek has contacted USCIS for comment on the policy shift, which took effect at the start of the year.
In a statement to The Post, the agency said applicants “must provide the specific information requested and answer all the questions asked.”
Newsweek has contacted the Immigration Center for Women and Children and AILA for comment.