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FOIA: Evidentiary requests in family reunification applications

IRAP filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit seeking records from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) around the issuance of requests for additional evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs) during the processing of family-based immigration applications.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and other immigrants apply for their family members to join them in the United States. Applicants often wait years for a decision as to whether their families, who are often stuck facing grave danger in their home countries, can join them.

During processing, USCIS, which governs the adjudication of these applications, may issue an RFE or NOID if it believes the applicant did not submit sufficient evidence to prove a qualifying family relationship. However, collecting such evidence can be burdensome, time-consuming, or even—especially in the case of refugees and asylees—impossible. As such, an RFE or NOID can considerably delay processing by months or even years.

Impact

In recent years, IRAP has observed an increase in USCIS’ issuances of RFEs and NOIDs to petitioners from Muslim-majority countries, many of which appear to be unnecessary, redundant, or otherwise in violation of USCIS’ published regulations and policies.

This case seeks to provide a better picture of current USCIS regulations and policies around adjudicating family-based immigration applications, as well as the seemingly disproportionate issuance of RFEs and NOIDs to nationals of Muslim-majority countries, so that IRAP can better serve its clients hoping to reunite with their families.

Case status

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