U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS), as well as other federal agencies and departments that are involved in processing of immigration benefits and applications, have announced a series of measures aimed at containing the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this update, we will present some of the measures that directly impact the processing of various immigration benefits and applications.
A. Travel to the U.S.
– Restrictions and bans on travel to the U.S. have been put in places from many countries.
1. Foreign nationals may not enter the U.S. if they have visited or have been present in the following countries in the past 14 days:
a. All 26 countries in the Schengen Area Free movement zone (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland)
b. The United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe) and the Republic of Ireland
c. China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau) and
All U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and their families may enter the U.S., but if they have visited any of the above-listed countries within the past 14 days, they must travel through one of 13 designated airports.
2. The U.S. has suspended all “non-essential” travel between the U.S. and Mexico and the U.S. and Canada. Commercial traffic is allowed. Essential travel will include travel for medical reasons, education and emergency responses. Recreation and tourism are not considered essential.
B. U.S. Visa Appointments
– Many U.S. Embassies and Consulates across the world have cancelled or drastically reduced routine immigrant and/or nonimmigrant visa appointments except for emergencies. Additionally, restrictions on entry into the consulate have been placed on those who have visited the above-mentioned countries in the past 14 days. We urge all travelers to reconsider non-emergency travel to the U.S. as well as to check the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate website to check on the status of interview of that consulate. Links to individual consulate websites can be found here: https://www.usembassy.gov/.
C. USCIS Field Office Appointments
– USCIS has suspended routine in-person services at ALL USCIS Field Offices until at least April 1. USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public and will provide emergency services in limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment, contact the USCIS Contact Center (800-375-5283; TTY 800-767-1833). USCIS domestic field offices have or are sending notices with instructions to applicants, petitioners and authorized representatives regarding the cancellations. USCIS will reschedule the appointments only after normal operations resume.
Individuals who had InfoPass appointments with a Field Office must reschedule the appointment through the USCIS Contact Center.
We remind our readers there will be inevitable delays in case processing and appointment scheduling once USCIS resumes appointment scheduling and re-scheduling.
D. ASC Appointments
– USCIS has suspended all biometrics appointments. When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule Application Support Center appointments and send a new appointment letter in the mail. If one does not receive a new appointment notice by mail within 90 days, one could call 800-375-5283 to enquire. Please note that appointments for Canadian and United Kingdom visa applicants are not automatically re-scheduled. Such applicants must visit the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada or UK Visas and Immigration website, respectively, for updated information.
E. Suspension of Premium Processing
– Effective March 20, 2020, USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions. USCIS will process petitions with a previously accepted Form I-907, but will not accept any new requests for premium processing, and will reject the I-907 and return the $1,440 filing fee for all petitions requesting premium processing that were not received before March 20, 2020.
This announcement supersedes their previous announcement regarding the temporary suspension of premium processing for FY 2021 cap-subject petitions. USCIS will announce a confirmed date for resumption of premium processing.
We remind our readers that that are limited circumstances which may warrant a request to USCIS to expedite a petition or application. Contact our office to discuss if a request to expedite your petition or application is an option.
F. Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures
– USCIS will accept all benefit forms and documents, including the Form I-129, with reproduced original signatures. USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures on forms that require an original handwritten signature (“wet” signature) for the duration of the National Emergency. Please remember that USCIS will only accept copies of a wet signature if a wet signature is required. Please note that the original documents containing the “wet” signature must be safely retained and USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents. Inability to submit the petition or application with the wet signature may negatively impact your application.
G. Asylum Appointments
– USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location for the interview.
VisaPro continues to monitor the situation closely and will provide further updates as the situation develops.
If you have any questions regarding any U.S. immigration benefit, or need help securing a U.S. visa, contact VisaPro Law Firm today. Our experienced immigration attorneys will be happy to assist you.