COVID-19 Update: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Changes and Responses
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made several changes and accommodations in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the most relevant of which we detail below. Our summary and assessment of USCIS’ COVID-19 responses are a selection of the most current updates. However, many uncertainties remain for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders. Because the current situation is evolving rapidly, we urge you to contact one of our attorneys at Gee & Zhang to discuss your specific immigration situation. While we are safely distancing ourselves and working in staggered shifts, we assure you that Gee & Zhang is here to help you navigate these uncertain times.
- Continue to file petitions and applications with USCIS.
As we update below, USCIS has suspended in-person services at all field offices and Application Support Centers. Importantly, note that USCIS service centers continue to process immigration petitions and applications. Gee & Zhang recommends that foreign nationals continue to prepare and submit their petitions and applications to USCIS in a timey manner, especially since USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing for all I-129 and I-140 petitions as of March 20th.
If you submitted an I-129 or I-140 petition under Premium Processing prior to March 20, USCIS will continue to process your petition, but note that USCIS may refund your I-907 Request for Premium Processing fee if USCIS does not act on your case within the 15-calendar-day period.
- All In-Person Field Office and Application Support Center (ASC) Services Canceled
All in-person services at USCIS Field Offices and Application Support Centers have been suspended through at least May 3, including naturalization ceremonies, interviews, and InfoPass appointments. If you had scheduled an InfoPass or other appointment at a Field Office prior to the temporary closure on March 18, 2020, you must reschedule your appointment through the USCIS Contact Center. If you were scheduled for an interview at a Field Office, USCIS will automatically reschedule your interview once the office reopens.
You can check the specific rescheduling policies of your USCIS field office here: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/field-offices
- Biometrics Appointments Automatically Rescheduled
If your biometrics appointment was scheduled during the temporary ASC closure, USCIS will automatically reschedule your biometrics appointment once that center resumes normal operations. You should receive the new appointment letter in the mail. If you do not receive a new appointment notice within three weeks of your previously scheduled appointment, contact USCIS at 800-375-5283.
- Previous Biometrics Reused for I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Extensions
If you have a pending I-765 application for extension of your Employment Authorization, and your biometrics collection appointment was scheduled on or after the temporary ASC closure on March 18, USCIS will “reuse” your previously submitted biometrics to continue processing your Employment Authorization extension application.
- Extension of Due Dates to Respond to Certain RFEs, NOIDs, NOIRs, an NOITs
If you received a Request for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR), or Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, you may submit your response up to 60 days after the response due date indicated on your request or notice.
It is important to note that the 60-day extension for these requests and notices, as currently put forth by USCIS, is based upon the date of the original USCIS notice, rather than upon the due date for the response. As an example, if an RFE was issued for a petition on January 1, and the due date for the RFE response was April 1, the RFE response would still be due on April 1 because the original RFE notice was dated outside of the March 1 to May 1 time window.
Because the USCIS response to COVID-19 is constantly evolving, we urge you to contact our office to assess your specific USCIS request/notice and the current response due date.
- Scanned, faxed, or photocopied signatures temporarily accepted
For the duration of the COVID-19 National Emergency, USCIS will accept reproduced original signatures on forms and documents submitted on or after March 21, 2020. Note that you must retain copies of the original documents signed in ink (i.e., “wet” signatures) indefinitely, because USCIS may request them “at any time.”
Gee & Zhang continues to closely monitor USCIS’s rapidly evolving response to the COVID-19 crisis, and we are here to clarify their guidance, answer your questions, and support your immigration needs.