Our Immigration Attorneys Distill the Impact of the Latest USCIS Changes on Current and Potential Immigrants
There have been several important updates to COVID-19 immigration policies in the U.S. Here is what you need to know about these changes.
What Trump’s Proclamation Regarding a Moratorium on Green Cards Means for You
The Proclamation signed by President Trump on April 22, 2020. Will put a pause on the issuance of new immigrant visas (“Green Cards”). For applicants outside the United States for the next 60 days. Green Cards, also known as Permanent Resident Cards. Allow foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. permanently but retain the citizenship of their home country.
The Proclamation will not affect people who are already in the United States who are applying for green cards. Nor will it affect those who already have green cards. The Proclamation only applies to green card applicants who are outside the United States.
This Proclamation will last for sixty days which can be extended. There are exemptions for spouses and children of American Citizens, and essential workers, especially workers in healthcare. This 60-day Proclamation is in addition to previous announcements curtailing visa interviews. At embassies and consulates and banning most travel to the U.S. due to the COVID-19 crisis.
President Trump has also indicated that there may be additional executive orders on immigration. We will provide an update if that happens.
Temporary Visas Still Available
While this Proclamation adds rather uncertainty for those waiting for their green cards outside the U.S. The good news is that overall, we have seen a liberalization of policies for those in the U.S. From the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”). Particularly with respect to policies designed to assist foreign nationals in the U.S. who might be impacted by COVID-19.
While in-person appointments, including interviews as well as biometric appointments, are cancelled until at least June 4, 2020. The USCIS is still accepting filings and processing cases.
USCIS: Flexibility and Extensions
The USCIS is still considering extensions and change of status applications. Foreign Nationals whose visas have expired are usually required to depart the U.S. immediately. Applying for an extension of status (EOS) or change in status (COS) can allow you to extend your stay. Most of these forms are available online, and the USCIS continues to process them. If you file a non-frivolous application/petition on time. You can stay in the United States while you wait for the result.
If the COVID-19 pandemic prevents you from filing documents on time, the USCIS will consider this. The department does have the discretion to label your circumstances extraordinary and excuse late filings.
In a further acknowledgement of the difficulties faced by many foreign nationals in responding to requests for additional information. The USCIS will still consider any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT. As long as, it is received within 60 days of the original due date. They will also accept notices of appeal or motion received up to 60 days following the original decision.
Significant Delays Expected
While the USCIS is trying to be as accommodating as possible. There are still going to be significant delays for cases that require an in-person appointment or biometrics. While it also halted premium processing, it should presumably come back online once the COVID-19 crisis passes. The current moratorium on premium processing applies to all premium requests filed after March 20, 2020.
The USCIS has announced, however, that it will still consider requests to expedite as long as they meet USCIS criteria.
Routine Visa Services Still Suspended
As we previously mentioned in our update. The State Department has suspended all routine visa services at its embassies and consulates. These services remain suspended. However, H2 visa applications will still be in processing wherever possible. The State Department has also said that the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee remains valid. For up to one year in the country where it was purchased.
Overall, the COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on foreign nationals immigration trying to enter the United States. As they cannot even schedule the interviews necessary to secure visas to enter the United States. This is now further exacerbated by the new Presidential Proclamation. Banning all green card approvals for those outside the United States. Foreign nationals within the U.S. are also facing significant delays for cases that require in-person appointments such as green card and citizenship cases. However, it is nice to see that the USCIS is making some effort to alleviate some of the negative consequences on the restrictions on travel and lock downs have had on foreign nationals.