Frequently Asked Questions – The Coronavirus Impact on Your Immigration Case or Situation
My immigration application is pending with USCIS. How will the coronavirus pandemic affect my case?
USCIS continues to accept and process applications. On June 4, USCIS reopened its field and asylum offices and has resumed its “in person” services for appointments and interviews. Application support centers will resume services later.
USCIS is updating its procedures on a regular basis but delay might be inevitable for some cases, especially for those applicants who are waiting for an interview. It is important to stay informed of the latest changes.
What will happen to my appointment or interview that I am supposed to have with USCIS for my case?
On June 4, USCIS reopened its field and asylum offices and has resumed its “in person” services for appointments and interviews under certain guidelines (see below). Application support centers will resume services later.
We currently do not have information on how long it will take USCIS to send you an appointment or interview notice. If your interview was rescheduled by USCIS because of COVID-19, USCIS will automatically reschedule one for you. You do not have to contact USCIS. However, if you do not receive a new appointment notice within 90 days of your application support center reopening, you may contact USCIS at 800-375-5283.
USCIS Application Support Centers will begin to reopen in July. These support centers are where applicants are processed for fingerprints or biometrics in connection with an application for an immigration benefit or naturalization. Reopening will vary depending on location, so check USCIS for latest information about your support center.
Are there any precautions I must take before visiting a USCIS office?
Yes. USCIS has provided guidelines for entering an office.
Visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they:
- Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
- Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
- Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points.
Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. If they do not have one, USCIS may reschedule their appointment.
There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.
Individuals may also have to answer health screening questions before entering a facility.
Applicants and visitors are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.
For additional information about these guidelines and other criteria, please visit the USCIS website.
Who may I bring to my appointment at USCIS?
Applicants with scheduled appointments may only be accompanied by:
- An attorney;
- An interpreter;
- A parents, legal guardian or a trusted adult, if the applicant being interviewed is a minor;
- Immediate family members listed as dependents on the application or interview notice; and
- An individual assisting a disabled person.
My naturalization ceremony was postponed because of the coronavirus. When can I expect to receive my new oath ceremony notice?
We currently do not have information on how long it will take USCIS to send out a ceremony notice.
According to revised guidelines, Applicants may not bring guests to their naturalization ceremonies until further notice, unless the person is helping the applicant due to a disability.
My work permit needs to be renewed. How will the suspension affect my renewal application?
Currently, to process your renewal application for a work permit, USCIS has been using your old biometrics (fingerprints) taken previously in connection to a prior work permit application.
But since USCIS is reopening their offices, we assume that USCIS will start sending biometric appointment notices once again after the application support centers reopen.
I received a notice from USCIS instructing me to send them evidence or information by a certain date. What can I do if I am unable to send the requested evidence or information on time?
USCIS announced that if you received a notice from USICS which is dated between March 1, 2020 and September 11, 2020, and the notice requests additional evidence or information, or informs you of its intent to deny or revoke your application, you may submit your response within 60 calendar days after the original due date. It is highly recommended that you consult with an immigration lawyer if you receive such a notice.
I received a letter from USCIS denying my application and stating I may appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). Will the due date be extended because of the coronavirus?
Yes. If you received a denial notice dated between March 1, 2020 and September 11, 2020, your appeal may be filed in accordance with the notice’s instructions within 60 calendar days after its due date. However, not all appeals are covered by USCIS’s announcement. It is very important that you consult with an immigration attorney if you receive a denial to discuss whether the deadline extension applies to your case.
I am currently in the U.S. as a visitor and my authorized stay will be expiring. I am unable to leave the country because of the coronavirus. What can I do?
Generally, a foreign national who is here with a nonimmigrant visa must depart the U.S. before the period of stay expires. But there are situations where a person is unable to leave timely because of extraordinary circumstances. If you need to extend your stay, you must file an application for extension of status (Form I-539) with USCIS. If you properly file your application before your stay expires, your status is extended automatically for up to 240 days after expiration. If you visited under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP or ESTA) you are not eligible to extend your status. However, if an emergency, such as the coronavirus, has prevented your departure, USCIS may grant you a period of “satisfactory departure” for up to 30 days.
What if my authorized stay has already expired and I did not depart because of the coronavirus? If your status has expired and you were unable to timely depart due to the coronavirus, you may file a late application for extension of status based on extraordinary circumstances. You must submit evidence to support your request. The sooner, the better. Important: Any time in the U.S. that is not authorized counts as “unlawful presence” which could affect your future visits. If you have accrued more than six months but less than one year, you could be barred from reentering for a period of three years. If you have accrued a period of one year or longer, you may be barred from reentering for ten years. Also, any unauthorized time in the U.S. could result in the automatic cancellation of your visa. It is advisable that you consult with an immigration lawyer if you are in this situation.
I am currently in immigration court proceedings. What will happen to my court hearing?
Non-detained hearings at immigration courts that have not made special announcements are postponed through August 21, 2020.
Please check the court’s webpage to see if your court has made any special announcements as to when it will start conducting hearings.
It is important to check with your court, your legal representative, or call 1-800-898-7180 regularly to find out if your scheduled hearing was postponed or rescheduled.
If you change your address, you must advise the court immediately to receive your rescheduled notice.
I am required to report in person to ICE under a supervision order or as part of my release. What will happen if I cannot report due to concerns over the coronavirus? According to ICE’s website, in-person reporting has been temporarily suspended. Some ICE offices are allowing individuals to report during certain periods in the coming months, but it is important that you call your local ICE office to determine when you can report in person or through another method. Make sure you note the date, time, and the name of the duty officer with whom you spoke about your case.
I have a deportation order and I need to file a request to stop my deportation, but I am unable to file my request in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. What can I do? Generally, applications for a stay or deportation (Form I-246) are required to be filed in person at an ICE office. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, ICE is allowing you to file the application through the mail with a money order or request for a fee waiver. I have a DACA work permit, but I was recently laid off from work due to the coronavirus. Can I apply for unemployment benefits, and if so, will this affect my status in the future? Immigrants with valid work authorization may be eligible for state unemployment benefits. However, eligibility varies from state to state. Texas, for example, allows DACA recipients to apply for unemployment benefits. It is important that you check your state’s eligibility requirements. You may find information about unemployment benefits by visiting the Department of Labor website at https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance. Please note that certain nonimmigrants with work visas that require you to work for a specific employer (e.g., H-1B, L, or TN visas) might not be eligible for unemployment. Again, it is important that you check with your state’s eligibility requirements. Will receiving unemployment benefits affect my application in the future? No. You may have heard a lot of news about “public charge” within the last year. But unemployment benefits are not considered those types of public benefits that will disqualify you from any immigration benefit or U.S. citizenship. If you are eligible for unemployment benefits, you should not suffer any immigration consequences for receiving them. For more information about Public Charge, please refer to our FAQs. I lost my job because of the coronavirus. Will this affect my immigration application in the future? If you are applying for lawful permanent residence, USCIS should take into consideration that the loss of your employment was the result of the coronavirus, when determining if you are likely to become a public charge. It is important to document the reasons for your termination or separation, such as a letter from your employer. If you are lawful permanent resident, being terminated from work or receiving unemployment will not affect your application for naturalization. The same applies if you have DACA; receiving unemployment will not affect you. I am afraid to get examined or treated for the coronavirus because I have no immigration status. Will getting tested or treatment affect my immigration situation in the future? No. USCIS announced that medical testing or treatment for the coronavirus will not affect your immigration case. If you are feeling sick or need to get tested, you should be able to seek medical attention without fear of immigration consequences. I have a valid work permit. Am I eligible to receive a stimulus payment for the coronavirus pandemic under the CARES Act? If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may still be eligible to receive a stimulus check under this law if you are U.S. “resident alien” for tax purposes and have a valid social security number for employment, among other requirements. Please refer to the IRS website for additional information: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center Will receiving the stimulus payment make me a public charge and affect my future application for lawful permanent residence? No. USCIS announced that receiving a stimulus check would not affect your application for lawful permanent residence. Nor will it affect your application for U.S. citizenship. For more information about Public Charge, please refer to our FAQs.
I heard about President Trump’s executive order to stop immigration temporarily. What is this order about? Does it apply to all immigrants?
On April 22, President Trump announced his executive order to suspend immigration for a period of 60 days. Particularly, the order restricts the issuance of an immigrant visa, which is a type of visa given to qualifying foreign nationals who are applying for lawful permanent residence outside the U.S. at a U.S. Consulate Office.
The order DOES NOT apply to the following immigrant visa applicants:
- Foreign nationals applying for lawful permanent residence in the United States through a process known as “adjustment of status”.
- Lawful permanent residents reentering the U.S.
- Spouses or unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens.
- Nonimmigrants such as tourists, students, and temporary workers.
- Individuals who would help with important U.S. law enforcement objectives.
- Individuals with immigrant visas or other valid entry document as of April 22, 2020.
- Healthcare professionals entering to perform work intended to combat the coronavirus.
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or spouse or children of a member in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Investors (EB-5).
- Applicant for a Special Immigrant Visa.
- Individuals applying for asylum, refugee status, and relief under the Torture Convention.
- Applicants whose entry would be in the national interest.
I am in immigration court proceedings. What will happen to my court hearing?
All non-detained hearings will be postponed until August 21, 2020.
If you wish to speak to one of our immigration lawyers about the impact of the coronavirus on your case, please call 214-251-8011 or 817-332-1100 or schedule an appointment online. Please check our Facebook page or download our Lawpilot Guardian app to receive important updates regarding handling of agency or court cases in light of the coronavirus.