COVID-19 and Immigration Applications Update

As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some serious disruptions to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operations and the processing of immigration-related applications this year.

Offices Reopening

USCIS temporarily closed many of its offices on March 18th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 4th, many USCIS field offices and asylum offices resumed non-emergency face-to-face services to the public.

There are regulations in place for visitors to USCIS offices, matching many other similar safeguards (visitors should not have any symptoms nor have had recent contact with a person confirmed to have the virus).

In addition, there are stricter limits on who can accompany the visitor. Visitors are generally limited to the applicant, one attorney or authorized representative, and one individual providing disability assistance (who may be a family member), interpreters can participate by telephone.

Now that USCIS offices have reopened (albeit at limited capacity), USCIS is contacting everyone whose previous appointment was affected by the closures to reschedule. However, if you fall within this group, you may want to get in touch with USCIS about rescheduling, rather than waiting for them to contact you.

Extension of Deadlines

Due to USCIS’s limited capacity and processing delays this spring and summer, certain deadlines for supporting documentation to applications have been moved.

This flexibility applies to these documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision was between March 1 and September 11, 2020, inclusive. USCIS will accept a response to these requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. Extensions have been granted to respond to the following:

  • Requests for Evidence
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14)
  • Notices of Intent to Deny
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers
  • Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA)
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

Public Charge Rule Controversy

At the end of July, a federal court made the decision that the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS cannot use the new public charge rules that went into effect earlier this year for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Then, just two weeks later, a federal appellate court limited the injunction, allowing the Trump administration to continue the policy in every state except New York, Connecticut and Vermont (the states that initially sued to fight the rule). However, USCIS has not provided any guidance as to this newest development.and whether they are currently applying the public charge rule or not. There is much confusion about this topic.

Many immigrants have been concerned about taking advantage of public services because they did not want this to be held against them in their later applications for permanent residency. Unfortunately, for the time being, unless they live in one of the above three states, immigrants will have to continue to worry about receiving public services and how this might affect their immigration status.

For the latest news and analysis on immigration policy, stay tuned to our blog! If you have any questions about your particular situation, get in touch with me to set up a consultation!