Summary of Government Responses to COVID-19
CLINIC has been tracking and reporting changes in government policies that affect immigration services in government agencies and the immigration courts. We are advocating for measures that promote public health and safety and protect immigrants and their legal representatives during this national emergency. We continue to monitor how immigrants in the United States, abroad, and at our borders are affected.
CLINIC created a dedicated webpage to consolidate updates from government agencies in response to the COVID-19 crisis and to share resources that may be helpful to you and your program during this challenging time. A summary of selected changes as of April 21, 2020, is below. Please check CLINIC’s COVID-19 page for more details and check back frequently for updates.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- As of March 18, USCIS has suspended all in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers, or ASCs. USCIS has scheduled its reopening date for May 4, unless public closures are extended further. USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment contact the USCIS Contact Center.
- USCIS announcements on March 27 and March 30 provide flexible response deadlines for certain filings. For applicants and petitioners who receive an RFE, NOID, NOIR or NOIT dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, any responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the request or notice will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken. Further, USCIS will consider certain Forms I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the decision date before it takes any action. The eligible Forms I-290B should be from an appealable decision with AAO jurisdiction issued and dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, inclusive.
Department of State (DOS)
- On March 18, 2020, the State Department announced that it is suspending routine visa services in most countries worldwide. Embassies and consulates in these countries will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. Check the website of the embassy or consulate for its current operating status. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services.
- NVC notified CLINIC that due to staffing reduction, it will be unable to respond to all inquiries received via NVC’s online inquiry tool. NVC will only respond to inquiries with urgent medical or humanitarian concerns or other necessary updates. NVC will not respond to any routine emails submitted March 27 or earlier. Emails not receiving a specific response will be given an instruction to resubmit the inquiry if it involves an urgent medical or humanitarian situation, or a necessary case update that is still pending. Those with routine inquiries can use self-service tools such as CEAC or consult the NVC’s timeframes page. NVC’s call center remains open during its normal business hours of 7 a.m. to midnight ET.
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
- All non-detained cases scheduled between March 18 and May 1, 2020, are postponed. On March 18, 2020, EOIR issued a four-page memorandum that defers all non-detained cases scheduled between March 18 and April 10; encourages the resolution of cases through written pleadings, stipulations and joint motions; and reminds immigration judges of their authority to waive the appearance of represented respondents. On March 30, EOIR extended non-detained case deferrals from April 20 to May 1.
- EOIR released a Policy Memo noting that as of March 31, 2020, EOIR has begun accepting digital and electronic signatures on all documents filed with immigration courts and the BIA. EOIR will also accept electronically reproduced copies of documents containing digital, electronic or “wet” signatures.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- As of March 18, 2020, ICE is advising people with scheduled check-ins to contact their local field office for additional guidance prior to their scheduled appointment. ICE indicated that initial check-ins for individuals released from the Southwest border will now be scheduled for initial reporting to a local field office 60 days after release.
- Detention - ICE temporarily suspended social visitation in all of its detention facilities. Legal visitation — to include the Legal Orientation Program — will continue to be permitted. Facilities prefer non-contact visits such as video or phone conferences, but in-person visits may be arranged with the facility.
Visit CLINIC’s COVID-19 webpage for more in-depth information and resources related to the pandemic.