COVID-19: USCIS to reopen some offices, resume non-emergency public services next week

27 May 20

UNITED STATES

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Wednesday that it is preparing to reopen some of its domestic offices and resume non-emergency public services June 4.

In March, USCIS temporarily closed its offices to the public and suspended non-emergency public services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. USCIS said Wednesday that information on the status of individual offices will be posted on the agency’s office closings page.

Services will be rescheduled as follows:

  • Interviews and appointments. USCIS will send notices to applicants and petitioners who had appointments canceled because of the COVID-19 closures. Applicants will be required to reschedule their appointments through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices reopen. Applicants should check the office closings page to see whether their local office is open before calling the contact center.
  • Application Support Centers. USCIS will reschedule ASC appointments that were canceled. Applicants will receive a notice in the mail detailing specific safety requirements for their visit. Those who appear at a time or date other than the one listed on their appointment notice will likely face significant delays.
  • Naturalization ceremonies. USCIS will send notices to applicants who had a naturalization ceremony postponed because of the closures. Ceremonies will be shorter than normal, and attendance will be limited to naturalization candidates and those providing assistance to disabled individuals.
  • Asylum interviews. USCIS asylum offices will reschedule asylum interviews that were canceled and will send applicants a new interview notice with a new time, date and location for the interview. Interviews will be completed in accordance with social distancing guidelines, including the use of video-facilitated interviews with the interviewer and applicant in separate rooms.

Guidelines for visitors: USCIS provided guidelines for entering USCIS facilities, saying that visitors should not enter a USCIS facility more than 15 minutes before their appointment (or 30 minutes for a naturalization ceremony), that hand sanitizer will be provided and that members of the public must wear a facial covering. Applicants should also bring their own pens (blue or black ink).

Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, has been in close contact with someone who has (or is suspected to have) COVID-19, or who has been directed to self-isolate will not be permitted to enter a USCIS facility. The agency stressed that there is no penalty for applicants who have to reschedule appointments because they are sick. Additional information about visiting USCIS facilities is available here.

Revenue shortfall: The announcement about reopening came after USCIS asked Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding to make up for a shortfall in revenue because of COVID-19. The agency said it would run out of money this summer without an injection of funding and is reportedly considering imposing a surcharge on petitions and applications to cover the shortfall.

BAL Analysis: While some USCIS offices are moving toward reopening, services will be limited as some offices are likely to remain closed and others will adhere to new safety measures. Additional information on which offices will reopen is expected soon. BAL continues to monitor USCIS’s operations and funding status and will provide information as it becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@balglobal.com.

Copyright © 2020 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@balglobal.com.