Adjudication, as it pertains to U.S. immigration, is the act of an immigration officer reaching a decision of approval or denial on an immigration case.
USCIS's General Adjudication Process
Initial Case Review
Once a case is received at a USCIS office, it will be thoroughly reviewed to determine jurisdiction, presence of required supporting documentation, existence of relating files and basic statutory eligibility.
The Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) is a multi-agency effort facility conducts background investigations on persons seeking immigration benefits. Warrants, protection orders, etc. are checked for, against all agencies' databases.
If such a check reveals the existence of related files, they are to be obtained and considered by the USCIS before the case is adjudicated.
The adjudicator will examine the application and all supporting documents. Questions to be considered include but are not limited to:
- Is the form complete?
- Are there any responses which require further explanation or indicate there may be a need for additional documentation?
- Are all supporting documents translated into English if necessary?
- Is the beneficiary by law eligible for the benefit sought?
- Are all supporting documents authentic and unaltered?
- Is there any reason to suspect fraud?
Burden of Proof
It is petitioner and applicant's responsibility to establish eligibility for an immigration benefit. For different types of petitions, there are different specific required types of evidence to meet the eligibility for approval. Sometimes a secondary type of evidence might be considered when certain primary evidence is unavailable.
Inspection of Evidence
The adjudicator may give a petitioner or applicant an opportunity to inspect and rebut adverse evidence used in making a decision. An RFE may be issued to request more evidence. Or if the evidence has not met the requirement to establish eligibility, a NOID (notice of intent to deny) letter will be issued. The applicant or petitioner will normally be given a specific amount of time to respond within. The case will be paused until the new evidence is submitted or the applicant has failed to respond before the expiration date. Note that the maximum time to submit a response to a NOID is 30 days. There are no extensions of time beyond the 30 day limit.
Decision: Approval or Denial
After reviewing and judging, if all the requirements have been met, a final decision will be entered.
If a case is ready to be approved, the adjudicator will stamp the action block with his or her approval stamp and approved security ink. In some cases, the officer’s signature is also required. The adjudicator will then update the case to the system in order to generate an approval notice so the petitioner or the applicant is informed. Then the adjudicator will forward the case to the next location: the file room, the National Visa Center or consular post, or another USCIS office.
If a case is to be denied, the adjudicator will note the action block as denial and a written denial notice will be issued.