Take action if USCIS rejected your asylum application because of blank spaces

November 3, 2021

Good news! If your asylum or U visa application was rejected because you left a question blank, you can now resubmit your application. And if you already resubmitted your application, you can ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to send you a new receipt notice with your original submission date. This change is because of a recent legal decision that ended USCIS’s “no blank spaces” policy. You must submit any requests to USCIS by July 20, 2022.

What was the “no blank spaces” policy?

Under the Trump administration, USCIS had a policy that allowed them to reject asylum applications if you left any answers blank. This policy also applied to U Visa applications. (A U Visa is a type of protection that is available to victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence.) The “no blank spaces” policy was confusing and unfair.

How did asylum seekers fight back?

A group of asylum seekers and U Visa applicants decided to challenge this unfair policy. They sued USCIS in a court case called Vangala v. USCIS – and won! The “no blank spaces” policy is now gone, and the government cannot create similar policies in the future.

How do I know if my application was rejected because of the “no blank spaces” policy?

If your application was rejected due to the “no blank spaces” policy, USCIS would have returned your application to you with a rejection notice that looks like this. In addition, you may have recently received a letter from USCIS that looks like this. According to USCIS, about 60,000 people were affected by the “no blank spaces” policy.

What should I do if I think my asylum application was previously rejected because of the blank spaces policy?

The answer depends on whether you already resubmitted your asylum application.

(1) If you have NOT resubmitted your asylum application yet, you should mail:

  1. Your completed application (Form I-589) AND
  2. Evidence of when you first applied to USCIS. You can include one of the following:
    • A copy of the “no blank spaces” rejection notice
    • A copy of the first page of the rejected application, with a stamp showing the date of receipt
    • A copy of proof of delivery from a delivery service (USPS, FedEx, etc.)
    • A sworn statement from you, your attorney, or your family member

Your request should be received by USCIS on or before July 20, 2022. You should mail your request to the address found under “Where to File” on the USCIS web page for Form I-589. Include this line in the address: “Attn: Vangala Request.”

(2) If you HAVE ALREADY resubmitted your asylum application, you should contact USCIS if you want an updated receipt notice with the date you first submitted the application. However, if you do not want a new receipt notice, you do not need to take any action.

If you want a new receipt notice, you should mail:

  1. Your receipt notice for the application you resubmitted AND
  2. Evidence of when you first applied to USCIS. You can include one of the following:
    • A copy of the “no blank spaces” rejection notice
    • A copy of the first page of the rejected application, with a stamp showing the date of receipt
    • A copy of proof of delivery from a delivery service (USPS, FedEx, etc.)
    • A sworn statement from you, your attorney, or your family member

Your request should be received by USCIS on or before July 20, 2022. You should mail your request to:

USCIS
Attn: Vangala Request
401 W. Peachtree Street NW, Suite 1000
Atlanta GA 30308

Why might I want a new receipt notice with the date I previously tried to file my asylum application?

There are a few different reasons. You may want a new receipt notice to: 

Confirm you met the asylum one-year filing deadline. For example, you may have originally filed your asylum application within one year of arriving in the United States, but your asylum application was rejected. You then re-submitted your asylum application after one year. You can ask USCIS for a new receipt notice that shows you did submit your asylum application within one year.

Be eligible for a work permit sooner. You may be able to apply for a work permit sooner based on the date you first filed your asylum application. ASAP members can generally apply for work permits 150 days after filing their asylum applications. You may want a new receipt notice if 150 days have already passed since you first filed your asylum application, but 150 days have not passed since you resubmitted your application. However, please note that it may take a while for USCIS to send you your new receipt notice with the original date.

Include your children in your asylum application. For example you may have unmarried children who were under 21 years old when you first filed your asylum application, but they turned 21 before you could re-submit your application. The original receipt date will allow you to include your children in your asylum application if they are in the United States. If your children are outside of the United States, a new receipt date may allow you to petition for them to join you in the United States if you win asylum in the future.

How can I learn more?

Note: This information is for individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.

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