The policies for many visas, as well as asylum applicants, are slowly becoming more burdensome. The Trump administration has instituted more, albeit subtle, red tape. The latest policy targets asylum and U visa applicants.
The USCIS has slowly been instituting onerous rules for many applicants. The latest being that for all fields in a visa application that one would normally leave blank, “none” or “N/A” must be inputted. Such as someone who doesn’t have a middle name, “none” must be written. If an applicant fails to fill in all sections of the form, their application will be rejected.
The policies are just one more step in the march to limit immigration as a whole. Increasing bureaucratic regulations is perfectly in line with building a wall. The more difficult or confusing a process is, the less likely people are to undertake it. However, an applicant might not even know about these subtle changes. The policy widens the net for an officer to reject an application. In addition, this policy targets the most vulnerable- U visa and asylum applicants.
This development stresses the importance of having legal representation when filing anything with the USCIS. Silent and immediate changes to processing are detrimental to any person who is working on their own. Although, perhaps it is no coincidence that U visa and asylum applicants are the least likely to be able to afford legal guidance.
The USCIS defines the U visa as a nonimmigrant visa “set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity”. It was designed in 2000 to better protect victims of abuse, as well as encourage people to contact the police. Family members can also seek a derivative U visa. Those with a U visa, as well as their family members, can potentially seek a green card. The USCIS defines the following as “Qualifying Criminal Activities” where the applicant is the victim:
|Abduction Abusive Sexual Contact Blackmail Domestic Violence Extortion False Imprisonment Female Genital Mutilation Felonious Assault Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting Hostage Incest||Involuntary Servitude Kidnapping Manslaughter Murder Obstruction of Justice Peonage Perjury Prostitution Rape Sexual Assault Sexual Exploitation||Slave Trade Stalking Torture Trafficking Witness Tampering Unlawful Criminal Restraint Other Related Crimes*† *Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar. †Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.|
There is a cap of 10,000 U visas that can be issued every year. However, there is not a cap on the number of derivative U visas that can be issued. In addition, the U visa is valid for four years, with an extension available under certain circumstances.
All asylum seekers must meet the definition of a refugee. Refugee status is defined in 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Generally, their home country’s government must be unwilling or unable to protect them. Asylum seekers must meet the definition of refugee status but are either already in the US, or at a port of entry.
The Trump administration has made repeated attempts to drastically limit someone’s ability to apply for asylum. Rejecting an application for technical or incidental reasons can prevent someone from filing on time, within one year after most recent entry to the U.S. Although many ad hoc restrictions like this have been struck down in the federal courts, some are still active. The policy changes previously discussed are another aspect of the same goal: slow down and limit immigration.