The past two weeks have been filled with many changes in everyone’s professional and personal lives. Every sector of society has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic including immigration law. Below are a few COVID-19-related immigration updates. Please note that this information is current as of the close of business on March 30, 2020. However, this is a very fluid situation and information is subject to change at any moment.
Recent COVID-19 Updates
· On March 18, 2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) closed its field offices to the public and are expected to reopen on Monday, April 7, 2020. However, this could be extended. USCIS will automatically reschedule your interview date if it has been impacted by the closure. On the other hand, most Immigration Courts throughout the country are open. Missing a court hearing could result in denial of relief or deportation. If you have an upcoming court hearing please call the court directly to confirm whether it is open.
· USCIS recently announced that it will accept “reproduced original signatures” for immigration applications submitted on or after March 21, 2020. Applicants can now submit documents that have been scanned, photocopied or faxed if it is a copy of an original signature. In addition, USCIS will give individuals an additional 60 days to respond to Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), to Revoke (NOIR), to Terminate (NOIT) or appealable decisions that are dated March 1, 2020, through May 1, 2020.
· USCIS will also begin using previously submitted biometric information to process I-751 work authorization extension requests during the office closures. If you have a scheduled biometric appointment that is impacted by the closures, your application will be processed using prior biometric information.
· As of March 13, 2020, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), temporarily suspended social visitations at all detention facilities. ICE will continue to detain individuals in accordance with its enforcement guidelines. However, per ICE’s policy it will “avoid making arrests at sensitive locations [such as] schools, places of worship, and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities…”
COVID-19-Related Immigration Questions
Help! I’m stuck in the US due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, what should I do? If your authorized period of stay is about to expire then you should immediately apply for an extension of status before your visa expires.
If I am undocumented, should I seek medical treatment for the Coronavirus if I have symptoms (fever, cough and shortness of breath)?
You should use your best judgment. Ultimately, your health and the containment of the Coronavirus is of utmost importance. It is also in the public interest if you seek and obtain the medical assistance that you need to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Per ICE’s policy, they will not detain individuals at sensitive locations such as health care facilities.
I am a green card holder and I lost my job due to the Coronavirus crisis, will my status be affected if I apply for unemployment?
No, collecting unemployment will not affect your current green card status or future citizenship application.
Will receiving medical care as a result of the Coronavirus crisis hurt me under the new public charge rule?
It is unlikely that receiving medical care resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic will have implications under the new public charge rule. USCIS realizes that people may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment and therefore will not consider Coronavirus treatment or preventative care in future public charge determinations. Click here for more information regarding COVID-19 and the public charge rule.
Please contact our office if you need specific immigration advice. As always, telephone and skype consultation appointments are available!