Last week, USCIS released a memo outlining stricter requirements for petitioners and applicants seeking immigration benefits. The memo outlines that a petitioner or applicant must provide a “valid signature” to receive approval from a USCIS. A valid signature is defined by USCIS as any handwritten mark or sign by an individual to signify his or her knowledge of the contents of the request. It is not required that the valid signature be legible or in English, nor is it required to be in cursive handwriting. An individual unable to write in language may use “X” or a similar mark as a signature. As per USCIS, a signature created by a typewriter, world processor, stamp, auto-pen or similar device is not acceptable.
According to a previous memorandum, petitioners or applicants previously could use power of attorney (POA) signatures for applications for immigration benefits. This was allowed under general agency principles. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that signatures from POAs “create an additional evidentiary burden, making it more difficult to litigate or prosecute immigration fraud when the filing is signed and filed by a POA.” Additionally, USCIS found that adjudicating officers did not treat applications with POA signatures with consistent scrutiny.
According to USCIS, the petitioner must write an authorized signature. Failure to comply may result in a rejected form. For example, a petition for a high skilled worker (H-1B) must include the signature of an authorized employer. The new requirement excludes applications on behalf of minors under the age of 14 and applicants who are mentally incompetent. USCIS will reject and return any request for immigration benefits not accompanied by a valid signature. Additionally, USCIS reiterated that a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, does not authorize a representative to sign the forms on behalf of the petitioner or the beneficiary.
While it is good news to see USCIS bring in consistency among USCIS officers and offices while increasing efforts to crack down on immigration fraud, this new requirement will put an additional burden on the businesses who, at times, are unavailable to sign the forms at a short notice. For corporations utilizing legal entities for administrative ease, the new requirement will present a hassle starting March 17th of this year when the guidance becomes effective.
 Under general legal principles, an individual or entity may authorize another to act on his or her behalf, and that person becomes an “Agent.”