Now that USCIS has begun rescheduling naturalization interviews in NJ that were previously postponed due to COVID-19, the natural question now is what to expect? Will things be drastically different?
The most obvious change is that there will be noticeably less people allowed into the waiting room. Unlike before, only the following people are allowed to come to the interview:
- The applicant
- The applicant’s attorney or authorized representative; alternatively, attorneys may be available via phone
- If the applicant has a disability, an individual who assists the applicant
Family members, spouses, significant others, children-people who would ordinarily be allowed to accompany the applicant-will no longer be permitted to enter. Applicants should not arrive more than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled interview time. Note that this Newark District Office Policy appears somewhat different and slightly more restrictive than the official federal USCIS Visitor Policy found on USCIS’s website (https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-visitor-policy). Of course, all visitors must wear a face mask or covering and abide by social distancing guidelines.
One concern revolves around interpreters. Firstly, most applicants will not be allowed an interpreter unless they meet the eligibility requirements for the English Waiver: namely, at least 55 years of age and at least 15 years of permanent residence (both conditions must be satisfied). If an applicant meets these requirements, he/she will be allowed to have a translator. However, under the current safety protocol, interpreters will not be allowed to accompany the client to the interview. Rather, interpreters must arrange to be available by telephone. During the interview, the USCIS officer will call the interpreter if he/she deems the translator qualified.
More information will be posted about the “new normal” once our office starts attending more interviews. The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.