The “No Blank Space Rejection Policy” Case reaches settlement agreement by USCIS


Under the Trump administration, many new laws were announced that had closed the US borders for many immigrants and had made it difficult for immigrants who were staying in the country.

In particular, the Trump administration specifically targeted the humanitarian benefits for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking and asylum seekers.

To fight against this law, a suit was filed on November 19, 2020, against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On July 20, 2021, a federal district court judge in Oakland, California, approved a final settlement in the case of Vangala v. USCIS, providing relief to over sixty thousand applicants for humanitarian immigration benefits.

This allows certain individuals to receive updated receipt dates for resubmitted immigration benefit applications or petitions originally rejected under the former “No Blank Space” rejection policy. Under this former policy, USCIS rejected filings with any blank fields or spaces.

Under the policy, USCIS rejected applications that left any question in the application unanswered, even where the question was not applicable—for example where the applicant failed to include a response for middle name because they have no middle name.

Additionally, USCIS rejected applications where the applicant wrote “none” or “not applicable” instead of “N/A.”

The lawsuit was filed by three law firms on behalf of three applicants who sought to represent a nationwide class of individuals whose applications were rejected under the policy.

In the suit filed by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), the National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), and the Van Der Hout law firm, they alleged that the policy was nothing more than a pretextual basis for denying applicants the opportunity to obtain humanitarian benefits provided by Congress.

In action to the suits, the USCIS agreed to suspend the policy, and the parties then entered settlement discussions to address the tens of thousands of applications that USCIS previously rejected, on December 22, 2020.

This was heard by a US district court who adopted and approved the final settlement agreement on July 20.

Under the settlement agreement, USCIS will accept the original submission date of the more than sixty thousand applications it has identified as having been rejected under the policy.

The settlement agreement prevents the agency from adopting a similar rejection policy with respect to other immigration forms unless authorized by statute or lawfully implemented through regulations.

Matt Adams, Legal Director for NWIRP sadi, “It was an outrageous policy clearly aimed to impede individuals from obtaining the humanitarian benefits that Congress has provided.”

“It aptly demonstrates the Trump administration’s utter disregard of the law,” he added.