Immigration Updates Relating to COVID-19

Immigration processes in the United States have been altered dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Review the following organizations and processes below to help understand the current status of your immigration needs.

The immigration lawyers at Murphy Desmond S.C. are available to address your concerns. Call us at 608.270.5550 (bilingual) or email us at infoimmigration@murphydesmond.com to assist you.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Field Office Appointments and Rescheduling:

  • As of March 18, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 7 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations and to schedule an emergency appointment, contact the USCIS Contact Center.  Contact information can be found at: https://www.uscis.gov/contactcenter.
  • USCIS domestic field offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview and biometrics appointments or naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure.  They will automatically be rescheduled once normal operations resume.  Individuals who had Info Pass appointments with a field office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center.
  • Please check the USCIS field offices page to see if your field office has reopened by visiting:  https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-office-closings.
  • USCIS Service Centers are operational currently with many officers and employees telecommuting.
  • Online filings with USCIS through my.USCIS.gov continue without disruption.  Various applications and petitions are available for online filing, including, but are not limited to: I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative; I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status; I-90 Applications to Replace Permanent Resident Card; N-400 Applications for Naturalization; N-600 Applications for Certificate of Citizenship; N-565, Applications for Replacement of Naturalization/Citizenship Document.
  • As of March 25, 2020, the USCIS announced that the Office of the Chief Counsel is not accepting service of process for actions against the USCIS or its personnel in their official capacity.

Asylum Appointments:

  • USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews.
  • Contact the asylum offices by email, mail, or phone.  Contact information for each asylum office can be found at https://egov.uscis.gov/office-locator/#/asy.

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

  • As of March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in person services until at least April 7, 2020, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Naturalization ceremonies will automatically be rescheduled by the USCIS once normal operations resume.
  • If you do not receive a notice within 90 days of cancellation, please reach out to the USCIS Contact Center at https://www.uscis.gov/contactcenter.
  • Submitting Required Signatures
  • USCIS announced that it will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, including the I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker for submissions dated March 21,2020, and beyond.
  • USCIS already accepts various petitions, applications and other documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature. This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified.
  • For forms that require an original “wet” signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a USCIS petition or application.

Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for I-129 Petitions and I-140 Petitions Due to COVID-19

  • USCIS announced immediate and temporary suspension of premium processing service for all I-129 Petitions for Nonimmigrant Worker and I-140, Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker, until further notice.
  • USCIS will process any petition with a previously accepted I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, in accordance with the premium processing service criteria.
  • However, USCIS will not be able to send notices using pre-paid envelopes. USCIS will only send batch-printed notices. Petitioners who have already filed a I-129, Petitions for a Nonimmigrant Worker, or I-140, Immigrant Petitions for Alien Workers, using the premium processing service and who receive no agency action on their case within the 15-calendar-day period will receive a refund consistent with 8 C.F.R. 103.7(e).
  • USCIS will reject the I-907, Request for Premium Processing, and return the $1,440.00 filing fee for all petitions requesting premium processing that were mailed before March 20, 2020, but have not yet accepted.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Effective immediately and until further notice, the Chicago Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), including all sub-offices of the Chicago Field Offices (including Milwaukee) are closed for all appointments other than:

  • Assistance with a broken GPS Ankle Monitor (Kansas City, Wichita, Indianapolis and Louisville Offices only)
  • Paying a bond for a detainee in custody.
    • The positing of a bond payment can be completed “in person” only at the following offices: ERO Chicago, ERO Indianapolis, ERO Louisville, ERO Wichita, ERO Kansas City.
  • Additionally, the obligor may utilize the services of a surety company in order to post a bond electronically to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis ERO offices, while these offices are temporarily closed.  No “in person” bond payments can be taken at those offices (CHI, MKE, STL) at this time and until further notice.
  • ICE’s ERO Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL) is also staffed with personnel who are able to answer questions you may have about how the announcement may affect you.  The toll-free line can be reached at 1-888-351-4024, Monday-Friday from 8am to 8pm.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates Closures for In-Person Visa Appointments

  • Mail-in visa applications that do not require an in-person interview are generally still being processed, depending on the country.  US embassies and consulates worldwide have canceled immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.  People affected will need to reschedule their U.S. visa appointment once the service is resumed.  It is understood that the cancellation of U.S. visa appointments will apply across approximately 100 countries.
  • Some consular sections are allowing applicants to request an appointment under urgent or emergency circumstances that require the applicant to travel immediately. Applicants should be prepared to provide an explanation for the urgent travel under guidelines.

Travel Restrictions

In addition to the cancellation of U.S. visa services worldwide, the current U.S. administration has introduced a travel ban on foreign nationals who have travelled to certain countries in recent weeks, to limit the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.

  • Effective on February 2, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation barring entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who traveled to People’s Republic of China within the past 14 days.
  • Effective March 2, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation that expanded restrictions to include all foreign nationals who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
  • Effective March 13, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation that restricts travel to the United States from foreign nationals who have recently been in certain European countries including Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungry, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
  • Effective March 16, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation that restricts travel to the United States from foreign nationals who have recently been in the United Kingdom and Ireland.?  
  • Effective March 21, 2020, the Canadian-U.S. Border and the Mexican-U.S. border was closed to all “nonessential travel” for at least 30 days.

Global Level 4 Health Advisory

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.  U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel, at this time. 

For questions about immigration matters during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact the immigration lawyers at Murphy Desmond S.C. at 608.270-5550 or infoimmigration@murphydesmond.com.

Published March 26, 2020

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