The Immigration System in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned many U.S. government functions inside-out and the immigration system is no exception. Here is a brief rundown of the ongoing situation with each relevant immigration agency as of May 7, 2020.

USCIS:

  • USCIS Service Centers are fully operational. Applicants may submit all types of petitions and applications, which will be processed and issued receipts.

    Photo by Elias Castillo

  • Local USCIS offices, including the Detroit Field Office and the Chicago Asylum Office, are scheduled to reopen on June 4, 2020. Until then, local USCIS offices are closed for in-person services. Emergency appointments can still be requested. All interviews, citizenship ceremonies, fingerprint appointments, and InfoPass appointments have been cancelled and, with the exception of InfoPasses, will be rescheduled after local USCIS offices reopen to the public on June 4, 2020. InfoPasses require calling USCIS to reschedule. You can do so by going here and here.
  • There are no automatic extensions for expiring statuses or immigration documentation. For example, if your visitor status is expiring before you are able to return to your home country, you must timely apply for extension or change of status before it expires. If your work authorization is about to expire, you must renew it before it expires. If your conditional Green Card is within 90 days of the 2 year expiration, you must timely file your I-751 to remove the conditions, etc.. If you have an ESTA visa (visa waiver program), and you are reaching the 90 days of authorized stay, you need to request satisfactory departure for 30 days, to avoid being illegally present.
  • All deadlines must still be met. However, USCIS expands flexibility for responding to requests and notices (RFEs, N-14s, NOIDs, NOIRs, and NOITs) issued between March 1 and July 1, 2020, and for filing motions and appeals of denials issued between March 1 and July 1, 2020. USCIS will consider as timely a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action. However, USCIS will consider as timely a Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action. Click here.

National Visa Center (NVC):

  • Temporarily operates with reduced staff, on a limited basis. Expect delays on routine inquiries. Do not submit documentation unless specifically instructed by NVC, as NVC will not respond and will not return your documents. Address your inquiries online.

U.S. Consulates and Embassies:

  • All consulates and embassies have temporarily suspended routine visa services and cancelled all interviews. Their limited staff handles only emergency visa services. Routine interviews will be rescheduled upon re-opening.

Executive Order (Presidential proclamation) dated April 22, 2020:

  • Suspended issuance of Immigrant visas (at the U.S. Consulates) for a period of 60 days starting April 23, 2020, for certain immigrants. Some exceptions apply. This order does not affect anyone who currently has a visa already issued in their passports and a valid travel document, any person who is already a U.S. permanent resident (has the Green Card), or any person inside the U.S. applying for adjustment of status. Also, this order does NOT apply to NON-immigrant visa applicants, which are affected by the other restrictions related to COVID-19. See the official proclamation for more information.

Immigration Court:

  • Immigration courts are scheduled to reopen for all hearings on May 29, 2020. In the meantime, all call ups must still be timely submitted. Until May 29, 2020, all non detained hearings remain cancelled, and immigration judges are hearing only bond hearings and detained individual hearings. The courts are open for filings and all filing deadlines and call up dates must be met.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA):

  • Deadlines for filing appeals, briefs, and motions with the BIA are NOT extended.
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