In a welcome reversal of a 2017 policy instituted under the Trump administration, USCIS has announced that it will be reverting back to its previous policy of extending deference to prior determinations when adjudicating extension requests. What this essentially means is that if USCIS has previously approved a petition, it will normally extend deference to an extension request unless there was a material error, material change in circumstances or in eligibility, or new material information that adversely affects the petitioner’s, applicant’s, or beneficiary’s eligibility. As an example, if an applicant applies for a O-1 extraordinary athlete visa and is approved, USCIS will normally grant an approved period of stay of up to three years. Prior to the three years being up, the athlete can apply for an extension of up to one year. Pursuant to the 2017 policy, the reviewing officer would scrutinize the extension application and basically evaluate whether the applicant qualified for the O visa in the first place, even though a prior determination had already been made. Now, thankfully, officers are now instructed to accord a measure of deference to previously approved petitions when determining extension requests. This should result in faster adjudication of extension requests as well as eliminate unnecessary and unwarranted fishing expeditions by officers applying a higher standard of review than is called for under the regulations.
Notwithstanding this, applicants should be aware that they must nevertheless prove eligibility for the extension itself. If there are defects pertaining to the terms and conditions of the extension—not the initial application—these issues will need to be addressed. Additionally, the extension policy applies to petitions involving the same parties and facts as the initial petition. If there is a change in parties, ie., a new petitioner, then the adjudicator does not necessarily have to defer to previous determinations and is entitled to conduct a closer inquiry.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.