We know that many newcomers are struggling to navigate the next steps in their immigration journey during COVID-19 as governments around the world implement temporary travel and immigration restrictions.
While USCIS hasn’t released official guidance on how visa timelines and policies will change, we’re sharing updates on government statements and actions so that you can stay up-to-date on the latest developments.
If you have questions about recent developments, join our webinar on March 30 to hear from a panel of experts.
USCIS office closures and visa appointment changes
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices. USCIS offices will reopen on April 7 unless the public closures are extended further. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.
USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the extended closure.
USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview. When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments due to the office closure.
You will receive a new appointment letter in the mail. Individuals who had InfoPass or other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public again. Please check to see if your field office has been reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.
Consular applications and extensions
If you are currently in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa due to expire in the next 6 months and would need to travel abroad to renew your status, consult an attorney to discuss options for filing an extension directly with USCIS.
The H-1B lottery will still proceed normally for all visa applicants who registered by the March 20 deadline.
Form I-9: employment verification
Thousands of employers across the country have now shifted to remote work due to COVID-19. As such, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has temporarily halted the requirement that employers physically review employee identification and employment authorization documents when completing the Form I-9.
Employers who have shifted their normal, physical worksites to remote operations may inspect the Form I-9 Section 2 documents remotely and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2 of the Form I-9, when normal operations resume.” Examples of remote verification include reviewing documents provided “over video link, fax, or email, etc.” This change is in effect through the earlier of May 20, 2020, or three business days after the termination of the National Emergency Declaration.
Travel restrictions at the U.S.-Canada-Mexico borders
The United States has limited all non-essential travel at the Canadian and Mexico border as of March 20, 2020. Essential trave includes, but is not limited to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States as well as travel for medical treatment, to attend school, for work in the United States, for cross-border trade, for military operations as well as government and diplomatic travel. Non-essential travel is described as travel for tourism, including but not limited to sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events.
The White House expressed an interest in increasing the number of immigrant investor green cards from 10,000 to 75,000 and decrease investment amounts to $450,000 and $900,000. Congress must approve this proposal in order for it to take effect.
Premium processing for I-129 and 1-140 petitions
On March 20, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the immediate and temporary suspension of premium processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
On March 23, 2020, House Democrats introduced a bill (H.R.6379 - Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act) that would automatically extend the status and work authorization of all nonimmigrants or DACA recipients for the same length as the original period