The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a domino effect in every sector of economy, worldwide.
It’s not just the States that’s undergoing and adapting to multiple changes on a daily basis but almost every country today has shut down its international travel routes and entry ports, for the common good.
Understandably, speaking of restricting the to and fro entry routes, the non-immigrant visa holders have possibly been impacted the most.
This has not only driven a sense of uncertainty among them but also questions about these changes affecting their visa processing, whether their petition is expiring and more.
Let’s understand and walk down the lane of this sequence of changes undergoing in the USCIS.
Extension of stay for non-immigrants
Many non-immigrant visa holders working in the US have either been laid off or have had their visas expired.
In such cases they need to leave the country as soon as their authorized period of stay expires.
Considering the present scenario, USCIS understands the situation for these visa holders, thus providing them with a list of options to thoroughly guide them through the complete procedure of ‘Exchange of status’ and ‘Change of Status’ filings.
USCIS has also tweeted that non-immigrant visa holders can file their extension or change of status forms online, using a computer or a mobile device.
U.S. passports are issued only in “life-or-death” emergency situations
AILA files a lawsuit against DHS and USCIS, requesting the court to extend deadlines and expirations from March 13, until 90 days after the emergency ceases to exist; for all the lawful non-immigrants in the US.
The U.S. State Department shall process passports only for customers with a qualified ‘life-or-death’ emergency and those needing a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.
USCIS offices closed until May 3, 2020
USCIS extends the temporary office closures from previously announced April 1, to May 3.
This shift will bring no change in the filing processes introduced for non-immigrant visa holders, though.
USCIS shall take necessary steps to reschedule all the appointments accordingly and send new appointments to the applicants, once the offices open for everyday activities.
However, this will further delay processing of H4, B2, H4+EAD and L2+EAD applications, which require biometrics.
Reuse of previously submitted biometrics for EAD issuance
USCIS announces to reuse previously submitted biometrics to process extensions of employment authorization documents for applicants who scheduled an appointment for March 18, 2020, or later or for those who have filed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) extensions.
Deadlines extended by USCIS
USCIS announces to extend the deadline for submitting these 4 documents by 60 days.
- Request for Evidence (RFE)
- Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)
- Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR), and
- Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT)
USCIS offices closed until April 7, 2020
USCIS announces to keep their offices closed, until April 7.
However, they shall send out the reschedule notices for all sorts of appointments and appointments, once the offices reopen.
Premium Processing Suspension
USCIS announces to:
- Suspend Premium Processing service for anyone using the I-129 and I-140 forms, until further notice, and
- Due to offices being operated from home, the submitted immigration forms shall be granted flexibility with ‘wet signature’.
Visa appointments at U.S. Embassies and Consulates Are Cancelled
The State Department announces to cancel all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments at embassies and consulates worldwide, starting March 18.
Field offices, asylum offices and ASCs are closed
USCIS announces to shut down all their field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) to the public for in-person activities until at least April 1, to contain the spread of coronavirus.
If you need to pay a visit, do check out the USCIS Field Office or ASC status before you go.
When Can You Expect USCIS to Schedule Your Appointment?
USCIS mentioned that they will send respective notices indicating the closure of the offices and activities to all such applicants with scheduled in-person activities.
They will automatically reschedule and send new appointment notices for biometrics and other activities once USCIS resumes normal operations.