The Biden administration has ended a policy that allowed the U.S. to reject certain visa applications for any blank space on the form – even if that space didn’t apply to the person – a policy that led to thousands of rejections for otherwise qualified migrants.
The “rejection” or “no blanks” policy was quietly implemented by the Trump administration in late 2019, and it applied to both asylum applications and U visas, which are set aside for victims or witnesses of a crime.
The policy was one of dozens of barely-publicized changes in immigration procedure under President Donald Trump that often upended the filing system and left migrants and immigration lawyers to adapt on the fly.
Two blank spaces on an application form delayed the process for nearly a year for one man represented by Gina Amato Lough, a senior attorney at Public Counsel. The man – who asked not to be identified – still hasn’t received his visa to this day, despite being the victim of a crime and therefore eligible for a U visa.
Amato Lough accidentally left blank two spaces on the form meant for the middle names of his children, who are U.S. citizens. Everything else was complete, including a key document from law enforcement.
“Had I noticed those blanks, I would have put an ‘N/A’ in it, but I just inadvertently left it out,” Lough told Spectrum News.
By the time she received word of the rejection two months later, the required document from law enforcement had expired, and it took six months to get a new one.
“I was incredibly upset and emotional, because we have been battling just constant policy changes and changes in practice and policy for the entire four years of the Trump administration.” she said.
Under the policy, applicants or their lawyers were told to put “none,” “unknown,” or “n/a” in every space on the form that didn’t apply to them, instead of leaving it blank.
“It’s really difficult to keep up with all the many, daily changes to our practice,” Amato Lough said.
As of last spring, at least 12,000 U visas had been rejected for blank spaces on an application, according to an attorney with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is one of the groups challenging the policy in court. But he estimated that many thousands more asylum applications have met the same roadblock.
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