U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Primary Source: Full information about USCIS’s response to COVID-19 can be found on its dedicated webpage.
- In-Person Services: As of June 4, 2020, USCIS has resumed in-person services at its field offices and Application Support Centers, or ASCs, after they were previously closed due to COVID-19. On March 18, USCIS suspended all in-person services except for emergencies. USCIS is now in the process of reopening its field offices and Application Support Centers, or ASCs, for in-person services on or after June 4, 2020. USCIS has issued an alert detailing how appointments are being rescheduled and adjustments to practices to ensure social distancing and reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- The alert describes how operations will resume for four separate functions: asylum offices, naturalization ceremonies, interviews and appointments, and ASC appointments. Please review the alert for details. In addition, USCIS now indicates on its main COVID-19 response page that certain ASCs are now open extended hours to reduce wait times for biometrics appointments.
- Under current guidelines, in all areas of high or substantial transmission, visitors must wear masks inside federal buildings, including USCIS facilities. Health screening questions may be asked upon entry, and social distancing and sanitization guidelines will continue to be followed. Certain individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19, known exposure to the virus, or who have traveled to certain areas are asked not to enter USCIS facilities.
- Signatures: USCIS announced that it will accept all benefit forms and documents with original signatures, that have been copied, scanned or otherwise reproduced for submissions dated on or after March 21, 2020, for the duration of the National Emergency. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.
- Deadline Flexibility: USCIS announced a deadline flexibilities to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain:
- Requests for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny;
- Notices of Intent to Revoke;
- Notices of Intent to Rescind;
- 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); or
- Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
- The flexibility applies to those documents issued between the dates of March 1, 2020, and the new extension date of March 26, 2022, inclusive. USCIS will consider 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 any action. They will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B if the form was filed 90 calendar days from the issuance of a decision USCIS made; and USCIS made that decision any time from Nov. 1, 2021, through March 26, 2022.
- Biometrics: USCIS announced that it will reuse previously-submitted biometrics to process Employment Authorization Document, or EAD, extension requests. USCIS has indicated that it is still reusing previously-submitted biometrics whenever possible.
- Public Charge: USCIS has updated its public charge webpage to remove previous information it provided regarding how it will consider health issues related to the COVID-19 contagion in the context of public charge.
- Expiring Status: With respect to nonimmigrant status, USCIS has indicated individuals and petitioners should continue to timely file extension and change of status requests, noting nonimmigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while an EOS/COS application is pending. USCIS has also reminded petitioners and applicants that they may excuse failure to timely file EOS/COS requests if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances.
- USCIS noted that Visa Waiver Program, or VWP, entrants who are unable to depart the U.S. due to the COVID-19 crisis may seek a period of satisfactory departure for up to 30 days by contacting the USCIS Contact Center.
- Lockbox Delays: USCIS announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other delays, applicants may experience a delay of four to six weeks in receiving their receipt notices. These delays will not affect the receipt date, which is determined pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 103.2(a)(7). The announcement also outlines what USCIS is doing to minimize delays.
- COVID-19 Vaccination Required for I-693: USCIS announced that, effective Oct. 1, 2021, applicants subject to the immigration medical examination must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete an immigration medical examination and sign the I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Waivers are available for those in certain circumstances, including for whom it is not age-appropriate. Limited individual waivers may be granted based on religious beliefs or moral convictions.
- 60-Day Rule for Civil Surgeon Signatures on I-693: USCIS is temporarily waiving the requirement that the I-693 be filed within 60 days of the civil surgeon's signature on the form. This waiver is to assist both those affected by the COVID-related delays in the medical exam and application process, as well as Afghan nationals evacuated under "Operation Allies Welcome." The announcement can be found here and is in effect until Sept. 30, 2022.
- DNA Collection Overseas: Due to the COVID pandemic, the Department of Status has been unable to collect DNA samples in I-130 cases where such samples are needed to show relationships between beneficiaries and petitioners. USCIS is not currently recommending DNA testing, though indicates it will hold I-130 cases where the petitioner expresses a desire to pursue DNA testing. For more information, see the USCIS COVID-19 Response page here.
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