Despite mass closures of businesses and organizations around the nation, many government agencies remain open and operational. Fortunately, USCIS is one of them. To be clear, previously scheduled in-person appointments at all USCIS offices remain canceled through May 3, 2020. However, USCIS is still processing cases and applications despite the moratorium on public interviews. What this essentially means is that applicants who were intending on filing for status extensions, especially if time sensitive, should by all means considering doing so. As of this writing, there is still no formal policy granting forbearance or automatic extensions to those whose authorized periods of stay are due to expire, even if an individual desires to leave in good faith but cannot (ie., flight canceled or the person or close relative sick with corona symotoms). If a person overstays on his/her visitor’s visa, not only will the visa be automatically canceled but the person will begin accruing unlawful presence, which can potentially bar future entry into the US. Similarly, those whose conditional permanent residence are due to expire also need to apply within the ninety-day timeframe. Conditional permanent residents should not assume that they will be given extra leeway or time in which to file the remove conditions. If the I-751 is not timely filed, a conditional permanent resident’s status will be revoked and he/she will, at some point, be referred to immigration court proceedings. (Fortunately, with respect to Requests for Evidences and Notices of Intent to Deny, USCIS has announced that applicants will be given extensions in which to file responses for notices received between March 1, 2020 to May 1, 2020.)
Individuals intent on applying for naturalization and/or permanent residence are also not prohibited from applying at this time. Central filing locations and Service Centers are still processing petitions, and applications are still being adjudicated in the order in which they are received. As such, the longer an individual waits to file, the longer it will take for the application to be reviewed. Bear in mind as well that there is a proposed fee hike which is still in motion without any indication, at least as of now, that it will be delayed in light of the current situation.
It is true that US consulates worldwide have suspended visa interviews. However, this only affects applicants who have already been scheduled for their interviews abroad. If an applicant’s case is still with the National Visa Center, petitioners can and should continue processing their cases and uploading necessary documents through the Consular Electronic Application Center (“CEAC” system). Unless NVC deems a case complete and the applicant documentarily qualified, the case will not even be transferred to the consulate for an interview, so there is no practical reason why these cases should not be pursued. Additionally, the rule remains that if there is no activity with a case within one year, NVC will inactivate the case.
The current closure of many immigration courts should also not belie the government’s relentless impetus to remove individuals. Some courts continue to remain open to hear detained matters. Additionally, ICE agents are still actively apprehending people despite the fact that many state prisons are releasing inmates due to the health crisis.
Should you have any questions regarding immigration, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Telephone and video appointments through Zoom are available Monday through Saturday at your convenience. Get your questions and concerns addressed immediately in a confidential manner during these uncertain times.
The above is general information only and not intended to serve or substitute for legal advice. It does not create or replace an attorney-client relationship, nor should it be relied upon in lieu of a consultation.