U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Primary Source: Full information about USCIS’s response to COVID-19 can be found on its dedicated webpage.
- In-Person Services: For two years now, USCIS has conducted in-person services with varying levels of precautionary measures in place. As of Sept. 2, 2022, USCIS only requires physical distancing and masks to be worn in those areas where community levels of COVID-19 are high. Individuals are prohibited from entry into any USCIS facility if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, are not up-to-date on vaccinations and have had a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous 10 days or been on an international cruise within the past 5 days, or have been instructed by their doctor to self-isolate or quarantine in the last 10 days. Additional guidelines, including procedures for rescheduling appointments in cases of a local surge in cases, limitations on the number of visitors permitted at any given time and procedures for asylum interviews or naturalization ceremonies can be found at the dedicated webpage given above.
- Signatures: : On July 25, 2022, as part of a more general announcement extending COVID-19-related flexibilities, USCIS announced that it is making permanent its previously temporary COVID-19 policy regarding copies of signatures. As part of that policy, USCIS will continue to accept all benefit forms and documents with original signatures, that have been copied, scanned or otherwise reproduced. This change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.
- Deadline Flexibility: USCIS announced deadline flexibilities to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain:
- Requests for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny;
- Notices of Intent to Revoke;
- Notices of Intent to Rescind;
- Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
- Notices of intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status;
- Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.
- Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
- Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
- The flexibility applies to those documents issued between the dates of March 1, 2020, and the newest extension date of Jan. 24, 2023, inclusive. USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. They will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B if the form was filed 90 calendar days from the issuance of a decision USCIS made; and USCIS made that decision any time from Nov. 1, 2021, through Jan. 24, 2023.
- Temporary Waiver for Civil Surgeon Signatures: USCIS announced the extension of the requirement that civil surgeons must sign Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, no more than 60 days before an individual applies for the underlying immigration benefit. This waiver has been extended to March 31st, 2023, and applies to all forms I-693 associated with applications for underlying immigration benefits that have not been adjudicated.
- Biometrics: USCIS announced that it will reuse previously-submitted biometrics to process Employment Authorization Document, or EAD, extension requests. USCIS has indicated that it may reuse previously submitted biometrics in certain cases.
- Public Charge: USCIS has updated its public charge webpage | USCIS to remove previous information it provided regarding how it will consider health issues related to the COVID-19 contagion in the context of public charge. In addition, USCIS has added specific questions and answers regarding COVID-19 and public benefits to its webpage, "Public Charge Resources.
- LPRs and Extended Absences Due to COVID-19:USCIS explicitly acknowledges that an extended absence due to COVID-19 travel restrictions or illness is temporary in nature as long as the LPR maintained the intent to return and not abandon residency. USCIS also provides guidance on the continuous residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization as they relate to COVID-19 absences.
- Expiring Status: With respect to nonimmigrant status, USCIS has indicated individuals and petitioners should continue to timely file extension and change of status requests, noting nonimmigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while an EOS/COS application is pending. USCIS has also reminded petitioners and applicants that they may excuse failure to timely file EOS/COS requests if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances.
- USCIS noted that Visa Waiver Program, or VWP, entrants who are unable to depart the U.S. due to the COVID-19 crisis may seek a period of satisfactory departure for up to 30 days by contacting the USCIS Contact Center.
- Lockbox Delays: USCIS announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other delays, applicants may experience a delay of four to six weeks in receiving their receipt notices. These delays will not affect the receipt date, which is determined pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 103.2(a)(7). The announcement also outlines what USCIS is doing to minimize delays. As of Sept. 8, 2022, no further updates have been provided by USCIS.
- COVID-19 Vaccination Required for I-693: USCIS announced that, effective Oct. 1, 2021, applicants subject to the immigration medical examination must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete an immigration medical examination and sign the I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Waivers are available for those in certain circumstances, including for whom it is not age-appropriate. Limited individual waivers may be granted based on religious beliefs or moral convictions.
- 60-Day Rule for Civil Surgeon Signatures on I-693: USCIS is temporarily waiving the requirement that the I-693 be filed within 60 days of the civil surgeon's signature on the form. This waiver is to assist both those affected by the COVID-related delays in the medical exam and application process, as well as Afghan nationals evacuated under "Operation Allies Welcome." The announcement can be found here and is in effect until Sept. 30, 2022.
- COVID-19 Vaccination Required for Uniting for Ukraine Parolees: On Aug. 10, 2022, USCIS updated the vaccination requirements for parolees under the Uniting for Ukraine program. It has expanded the requirement for an attestation of COVID-19 vaccination to all parolees ages 6 months and older. Previously, the requirement only applied to parolees ages 5 years and older.
- DNA Collection Overseas: Due to the COVID pandemic, the Department of Status was previously to collect DNA samples in I-130 cases where such samples were needed to show relationships between beneficiaries and petitioners. On April 5, 2022, the Department of State resumed DNA collection, including for USCIS cases. As a result, USCIS has returned to its pre-COVID-19 processing steps for I-130 petitions, including issuing RFEs recommending DNA tests where the evidence submitted is insufficient to show a genetic relationship. For more information, see the USCIS COVID-19 Response page here.
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