The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a series of changes, from local office procedures to services of the national service centers, in light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Local Field Offices
After an initial piecemeal approach, USCIS issued a national directive to close its field offices across the U.S. until at least April 7, 2020. This means all in-person interviews, including for naturalization applications and applications for adjustment of status (green cards) initially scheduled during this closure will be rescheduled. This also impacts biometrics appointments and InfoPass appointments. USCIS has advised that it will automatically reschedule all appointments and send new notices at a later date to be determined. Some emergency services are still available, and applicants are encouraged to call the USCIS contact center for assistance.
Service Center Operations
Effective March 20, 2020, the USCIS has suspended premium processing for I-129 (nonimmigrant visa) and I-140 (immigrant visa) petitions until further notice. Any petitions accepted by the premium processing unit prior to March 20 will still receive premium processing service. USCIS will accept requests for expedited processing on a case-by-case basis, if such requests meet certain criteria.
On March 21, 2020, USCIS announced it will temporarily accept petition forms and documents with "electronically reproduced original signatures" in lieu of "wet signatures" beginning with documents dated March 21. This means that signed documents may be scanned, faxed, photocopied or similarly reproduced. USCIS has advised that the original documents with "wet signatures" be retained however, as USCIS reserves the right to request these original documents at a later time.
Finally, on March 27, 2020, USCIS announced that it will extend deadlines to respond to Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID) for an additional 60 days. This applies to RFEs and NOIDs dated between March 1, 2020, and May 1, 2020. Responses to RFEs and NOIDs dated prior to March 2, 2020, must still be received by USCIS by the original due date.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team's webpage.
For Further Information
If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact any of the attorneys in the Immigration Law Group, any member of the COVID-19 Strategy Team or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.
Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.