Kafka comes to the visa office

Paul Alper points us to this news article by Catherine Rampell about “a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas”:

If any fields on a form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field. For example, if “Apt. Number” is left blank because the immigrant lives in a house: rejected. Or if the field for a middle name is left blank because no middle name exists: rejected, too. . . .

It’s hard not to see this as a preposterous new layer of red tape designed to deny visas to legally eligible applicants . . .

The policy change, at first affecting just asylum applicants, was announced without fanfare on the USCIS website sometime in the fall. “We will not accept your [application] if you leave any fields blank,” reads a note you wouldn’t know existed unless someone told you where to find it. “You must provide a response to all questions on the form, even if the response is ‘none,’ ‘unknown’ or ‘n/a.’ ”

Then, days before the New Year, USCIS added a similar notice for U-visa applications. In both cases the processing changes were effective immediately — even if documents had been mailed in before the policy was announced.

That’s the truly Kafkaesque touch.

Rampell continues with the story of the rejected visa applicant:

To be clear, the absence of a son’s middle name wasn’t the only blank on her application. As many attorneys told me has always been common practice, she also left other fields unfilled if they didn’t apply.

For example, she checked the boxes saying each of her sons is “single.” A subsequent section says: “If your family member was previously married, list the names of your family member’s prior spouses and the dates his or her marriages were terminated.” Because no “prior spouses” exist, she didn’t enter anything; USCIS cited this, too, among the reasons for rejection. . . .

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has collected 140 other examples of allegedly “incomplete” forms: an 8-year-old child who listed “none” for employment history but left the dates of employment field blank. An applicant who entered names of three siblings, but the form has spaces for four. . . .

My dad had no middle initial. He said that in the army everyone had to have a middle initial, so he was Robert N.M.I. Gelman on all the official forms. They didn’t deport him, though; fortunately his parents came to the United States many years before the restrictive immigration law.