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Immigration and COVID: Common Questions and Policy Changes

The coronavirus outbreak has led to a massive disruption of everyday life across the globe. Immigration has been affected, including to the United States. Consulates, embassies, and domestic U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices have temporarily shut down, and many international borders are closing. You may be wondering how these changes will impact your green card or naturalization application.

It is important to note that even though the offices are closed to the public, USCIS staff are still performing duties that don’t involve contact with the public. Processes that are still active include Green Card renewals, citizenship applications, I-130 petitions, I-485 applications, I-765 applications, and other immigration applications. If there are any immigration application related obligations coming up then you need to take care of, please take care of it within the deadline.

There is a lot of confusion for those who are aspiring Americans, green card holders, foreign workers on their H1-B, or international students who find themselves uncertain about their status in the country.

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions during the current coronavirus outbreak:

Q: How is the coronavirus impacting the processing time of my application that’s already been submitted?

A: We are not sure yet how long the pandemic will last. Visa processing times will be dependent on the required global response to COVID-19. If USCIS has informed you about rescheduling your biometrics or interview appointment, please follow the instructions in the document.

Q: How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact the processing time of my application once I submit it?

A: At this time, USCIS is rescheduling all interviews and biometrics appointments due to office closures. All applications turned into USCIS are still being processed, although this process could take longer than usual.

Q: I was laid off because of COVID-19, and now I’m collecting unemployment. Does this look bad for my application?

USCIS considers other factors beyond income, however, a lack of work history and current employment may negatively affect your application. USCIS looks at every application on a case-by-case basis, and it is extremely important that you have adequate representation for yourself and your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Q: Will getting tested for the coronavirus or receiving discounted care at a medical facility negatively impact my green card or citizenship application under the new public charge rule?

A: No. USCIS announced that getting tested or seeking treatment for COVID-19 will not count against a would-be immigrant under the public charge rule. Accessing discounted care at hospitals or clinics is also not listed as a public benefit under the rule. For more information on what government benefits are considered during a public charge assessment, see our article about the ruling here.

There are also some important changes to the post-application process from USCIS. Here are a few of the biggest changes:

USCIS Office Appointments May Be Rescheduled

USCIS has suspended routine in-person services for the public by closing its field offices. This means that most appointments will be automatically rescheduled, and notices will be sent by the USCIS. However, in certain cases notices might not be sent, appointments will not be automatically scheduled. Instructions for all types of appointments can be found on the official website.

Renewal of Employment Authorization Documents Will Be Processed Without Biometrics Appointments

If you had applied for renewal of employment authorization and had an appointment scheduled with an ASC after March 18 or you filed Form I-765 for renewal of employment authorization document (EAD) after the office closures, USCIS will process your application using previously submitted biometrics.

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies Are Postponed

Due to COVID-19, getting your US citizenship may take you a little longer. USCIS has canceled all naturalization oath ceremonies through to at least May 3rd. USCIS will reschedule your ceremony and send you the notice for your rescheduled ceremony by mail.

Your Due Dates May Be Extended

If you have received any requests for evidence (RFE), notices of intent to deny (NOID), notice of intent to revoke (NOIR), and notices of intent to terminate (NOIT), you will now have 60 extra days to submit a response. These 60 extra days start from the response date stated in the RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT. Any actions that are a result of these requests will likewise only occur after these 60 days have passed.

This 60-day grace period only applies for RFE, NOID, NOIR, and NOITs issued between March 1 and May 1, 2020. If your request is dated outside of this date range, the due date stated in the letter will continue to apply.

This time has been confusing and difficult for everyone, but it is more important now that ever to have adequate and knowledgeable representation to help you navigate the immigration process. We are here to help, contact us today for a consultation.

Learn more about Roberson Law, LLC.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

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