So far Covid-19 has caused severe problems to the American economy, especially in sectors such as hospitality and the service sector (restaurants, bars, and other small businesses). Just as the pandemic has rippled through life for every citizen in the U.S., it has also affected the application process, and timeline, for immigrants and those are seeking to adjust their immigration status both here in the U.S. and from abroad.
In this brief, we’ll cover all of the major issue areas that are being affected on behalf of the USCIS, the government agency that processes visa applications, green card applications, and U.S. citizenship applications (naturalization):
1. First off, it should be noted that for those who are in the process of having their naturalization N-400 applications accepted, or are just days or weeks away from hearing their final status, oath ceremonies have not been canceled. Rather, the oath ceremonies, where one swears an oath under the U.S. Constitution, has been postponed, so expect longer wait times. Oath ceremonies are now the direct result of social distancing and mask-wearing measures, meaning that if you are invited to an oath ceremony, the size of the class you will be “graduating” to American citizenship with will be small, maybe 6-8 people in one room. Social distancing will also be enforced.
2. Secondly, if you are re-applying for another EAD—Employee Authorization Document, it will no longer be necessary to have another Biometrics appointment. Your previous appointment will be used when you first received your work permit card. In order to file for another work permit, simply go online to the USCIS website, scroll to “Forms” and locate the I-765 Application.
3. During the I-130 process where a close relative or marital partner petitions on your behalf, it is possible to receive a “Notice of Intent to Deny” (NOID) from the USCIS. Under normal circumstances, an individual has 30 days to respond to such notices, or any matter where officials are requesting more evidence (such could be the case in an I-485 application as well). However, in light of Covid-19, applicants now have a total of 60 days from when the request was sent (an additional 30 days).
4. The U.S State Department has suspended worldwide routine visa services. U.S. Embassies and Consulates, however, will continue to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services. This does not include consular processing appointments for adjustments of status.
5. Green card renewal applications, adjustment of status applications, I-130 petitions, as well as I-765 applications are still being accepted online. Staff is working remotely. Preparing forms online is the best bet for immigrants in light of the current Covid-19 crisis.