USCIS Introduces Comprehensive Online Policy Manual

1257832_instruction_manual_pages.jpgUSCIS, the federal agency that reviews and adjudicates immigration petitions, recently announced that it will be making a comprehensive Policy Manual available online in the coming weeks.

The USCIS Policy Manual will outline the agency-wide procedures and practices that adjudicators abide by when reviewing petitions for immigration benefits. The Policy Manual will be separated into chapters, with each chapter dedicated to a different area of immigration such as employment-based immigration, family-based immigration, asylum, and citizenship/naturalization.

This is the first time in the agency's history that it has undertaken a project to transition all of its adjudication policies to an online volume. To do so, USCIS conducted an extensive internal review of all of its current policies and procedures, and conducted a survey of both the public and USCIS adjudication officers. The agency received 8,000 responses to its survey and utilized the information to make the Manual readily accessible and easy to navigate.

According to USCIS, the move to adopt a publically accessible Policy Manual was driven by the agency's desire to improve the quality, transparency, and efficiency of its immigration adjudications. This is a major step toward ensuring fair and uniform decision making in the immigration petition review process. USCIS has stated that its ultimate goal is to have the Policy Manual replace the currently used Adjudicator's Field Manual and the USCIS Immigration Policy Memoranda site. By consolidating all of the agency's practices and procedures into one comprehensive volume, USCIS is providing immigrants, employers, and families of immigrants with access to information that can help them prepare their applications in accordance with the prevailing guidelines.

For example, USCIS just released Chapter 12 of the Policy Manual which discusses citizenship and naturalization regulations. The Manual provides detailed information on the requirements for becoming a citizen. One of the citizenship requirements is that the applicant must be a person of "good moral character" for the five years preceding the citizenship application and up to the time the person takes the Oath of Allegiance. In addition to the explanation of what exactly good moral character is, the Manual goes on to provide extensive information on the various criminal convictions that can adversely affect the applicant's good moral character.

The Manual is further divided into subsections dedicated to such important topics as revocation of naturalization, permanent bars to naturalization, posthumous citizenship, and other areas. The text also contains helpful links to relevant or cited sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). In addition to all of the explanatory text and accompanying links, USCIS plans to include illustrative tables and charts to help readers better understand complicated immigration regulations.

If this released chapter on citizenship and naturalization serves as the example for how the rest of the Policy Manual will be organized, this Manual will prove to be an invaluable resource to those preparing immigration petitions. Since the Manual outlines the precise materials and documents that USCIS adjudications officers will be looking for when reviewing petitions, applicants will be better prepared to complete successful applications by following these guidelines.

USCIS will notify the public as it publishes subsequent Manual chapters, and the agency will also invite the public to comment on new or significantly changed adjudication policies. These procedures will help USCIS achieve its stated goal of ensuring fairness and transparency in both its adjudications and its communications with the public and affected immigrants.

At the Gee Law Firm, we are closely monitoring the new Policy Manual as USCIS releases additional chapters. To discuss your immigration case with one of our attorneys, contact us at 650-293-0270 or complete our online contact form.

Additional Blog Posts

USCIS Sets Guidelines for Expedited Review for Cases Affected by Administrative Errors, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 1, 2012
USCIS Talks Immigration Law at Silicon Valley's Entrepreneurs in Residence Program, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 25, 2012

Employment-Based Green Cards / by Michelle Gee