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USCIS Issues Draft L-1 Petition Request for Evidence Templates

On January 5, 2012, USCIS issued new draft templates for Requests for Evidence (RFE) concerning L-1 Intra-Company Transferee visas for multinational managers, executives and those with specialized knowledge. USCIS has been reviewing its policies and trying to streamline adjudications of different visa categories to insure more consistent adjudications among officers and offices. Over the last year, the agency has issued draft RFE templates and implementation policy memos in the temporary and permanent business visa categories.

RFEs are a major sore spot with attorneys and their clients. They often reflect that a) the officer did not read or ignored the evidence already submitted; b) the officer confused category requirements or misinterprets the law; c) the officer sends boilerplate information about the law and then asks for everything but the kitchen sink and d) the officer automatically suspects small businesses are engaged in fraud. RFEs create delays and are a barrier to new business start ups and job creation. Although we do not receive many RFEs in our office, discussions about the RFE problems among our colleagues in the immigration bar have been frequent, especially since the recession began. It could be due in part to some combination of USCIS hypersensitivity to protect American jobs, internal personal politics of the officers, lack of training or possibly poor preparation of applications. Whatever the reason, Director Alejandro Mayorkas is aware of the problem, though his direction may not filter down to the front line workers in his agency. In particular, our colleagues complain consistently about business adjudications at the California Service Center.

Knowing the agency’s views on potential RFE requests in advance of filing can be helpful in selecting the best visa categories for a client and for preparing cases in a way that avoids receiving RFEs. The templates and memos accompanying them are posted for public comment until February 3. One of the L-1 templates concerning qualifying entity relationships was issued December 15 and is open for comment until January 17, 2012. Of particular interest is the boilerplate option that the officer must explain deficiencies in the evidence already provided when asking for more evidence. This is very important since requests often ask the applicant to “send XYZ” without explaining why or how it would be relevant, or what was wrong with previously submitted evidence on the subject. Whether the process of refining RFEs and soliciting feedback will help improve adjudications will be reflected when we can see that the officers are following the guidelines, interpreting the law correctly and moving cases quickly. Thus, it’s important to make comments now before the templates are finalized.