Approximately two weeks ago, an article in Roll Call reported that USCIS had stopped processing green card applications. This domestic policy was putatively to align with the President’s proclamation effectively barring immigrant visas from abroad, although no such announcement was made public. Fortunately, the reporter later tweeted last week that USCIS has instructed employees via email to resume processing of I-485 applications.
Nonetheless the implications of this secret, internal practice-if true-are disturbing. In fact, if true, the policy would potentially and arguably affect more people than the international visa ban. For one thing, the visa ban is explicitly limited to sixty days (although it is subject to being renewed at the President’s discretion). More importantly, there are several carveouts contained within the proclamation, most notable of which are exceptions for spouses and children of US Citizens. In contrast, a moratorium on adjustment of status applications practically bars all applications for green cards inside the US (except for medical professionals and cases deemed “emergent or sensitive”). In other words, if this practice had continued, USCIS would basically have neglected processing applications, even ones filed for people who are immediate relatives of US citizens such as spouses and children under twenty-one. Prior to COVID, adjustment cases were already lethargic but this lull in processing (for who knows how long) by the agency will predictably add further delay in processing.
Given the current trend in policy and adjudication, individuals who are eligible strongly need to consider getting their applications in now.