Updates on USCIS: What You Need to Know

On May 27, 2020, USCIS announced that they are preparing some domestic offices to reopen and resume non-emergency public services on or after June 4, 2020. Fingers crossed that this time it will actually happen!

Our firm has not heard anything yet about the reopening plans of our Detroit Field Office, in light of Governor Whitmer’s recent executive order that extends the “Stay home” mandate in Michigan until June 12, 2020. We will keep you posted as soon as we find out.

Nationwide, USCIS plans to gradually resume routine interviews, fingerprint appointments, infopasses, and other in-person services that were cancelled since March 18, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. USCIS will also resume naturalization ceremonies. The number of these services will be initially reduced to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Certain procedures will be in place to ensure social distancing, proper hygiene and cleaning. Everyone will be informed of these measures and those who are sick or present symptoms will be able to reschedule their appointments without penalty.

Below are the main points regarding each of the in-person, non-emergency services that will resume on June 4, 2020, based on the information provided by USCIS.  Most of this information is taken verbatim from the USCIS’ website. At the very end are the guidelines to be followed when entering the USCIS offices, from the same official source.

Asylum Interviews and Credible or Reasonable Fear Interviews

Asylum interviews will be automatically rescheduled so if you have one in your future, be on the lookout for an interview notice.

Asylum offices expect to conduct video-facilitated asylum interviews, where the applicants sit in one room and the interviewing officer sits in another room. Asylum offices will use available technology, including mobile devices provided by the agency, to ensure that the officer, applicant, interpreter and representative can fully and safely participate in the interview while maintaining social distancing.

For affirmative asylum interviews, applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents on the application and an interpreter, if the applicant does not speak English.  Additionally, a representative, witness, individual providing disability accommodations or “trusted adult” if an applicant is a miAsylumnor, may attend the interview.

For non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, individuals must bring any family members listed on the interview notice. Representatives may attend credible and reasonable fear interviews but are encouraged to participate telephonically. USCIS will provide contracted, professional interpreters for credible and reasonable fear interviews.

Naturalization Ceremonies

USCIS will send notices to applicants to reschedule postponed naturalization ceremonies. The ceremonies may be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance. Under the shortened format, all legally required portions of the ceremony will take place.

Attendance is limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals providing assistance to disabled persons.

Routine Interviews and Appointments

USCIS will send notices to applicants and petitioners with previously scheduled appointments and interviews that were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Those who had other appointments (such as InfoPasses) must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center, once field offices are open to the public. You may check USCIS’ office closure page to see if a specific office has been reopened.

Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member and one individual providing disability accommodations. The applicant should arrange to have their interpreter available by phone.

Application Support Centers (for biometrics/fingerprints)

USCIS will automatically reschedule any necessary Application Support Center (ASC) appointments that were cancelled due to the temporary office closure. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail with specific safety requirements. Individuals who appear at a date or time other than what is listed on the ASC appointment notice may encounter significant processing delays, except for military members.

Guidelines for Entering USCIS Facilities

  • Visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they:
    • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
    • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points.
  • Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph. There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.
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