A Boutique Immigration Law Firm Serving the Bay Area

How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Your Immigration Process?

The most immediate concern surrounding the coronavirus is, of course, our health. But the pandemic has wreaked havoc on business operations, government services, individual finances, and the national economy. If you are in the middle of an immigration process, COVID-19 could significantly impact your timeline and likelihood of success.

At The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm, we are staying informed to help our clients handle the growing uncertainty and navigate this unprecedented crisis. The following is a list of changes and restrictions the government has applied to the immigration system. If you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

How the Department of State Has Responded to the Virus

As of March 20th, the Department of State has suspended routine services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Any appointments for immigrant or nonimmigrant visas, therefore, have been cancelled. If you paid a Machine Readable Visa fee, you can still apply this fee to a new appointment within a year of your original payment date.

Here are a few general exceptions to the suspension of operations:

  • Services for U.S. citizens
  • The Visa Waiver Program
  • Many H-2 cases
  • Emergency matters (e.g. air and sea crew, medical purposes, etc.)

If your matter is urgent, visit the applicable Embassy’s website to request an emergency appointment.

How USCIS Has Responded to the Virus

Due to the pandemic, USCIS has implemented several policies and operational procedures that will affect anyone currently applying for an immigration benefit.

These changes include:

  • No in-person services. USICS has suspended all in-person services until at least May 3rd, including appointments for interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and biometrics. However, critical duties that do not involve public contact will continue, and emergency services in limited situations will be provided.
  • No premium processing. As of March 20th, USCIS no longer accepts premium processing requests for I-129 and I-140 forms. Employers and foreign workers who planned to rely on this expedited process may need to reevaluate their plans to accommodate significantly longer wait times.

Both of these changes will disrupt the timelines of both immigrants and nonimmigrants. Fortunately, USCIS has announced flexibility for signature requirements. For the duration of the National Emergency, the agency will not require “wet” signatures, meaning you can scan, photocopy, fax, or otherwise reproduce a document with your handwritten signature, instead of having to deliver and sign the document in person.

Additionally, USCIS will be more flexible with responses to Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny. If you receive either of these dated between March 1st and May 1st of 2020, USCIS will still consider your response even if you send it up to 60 days after your response due date.

Closing Borders and Restricting Travel

To limit the spread of the virus, the southern and northern borders separating the U.S. from Mexico and Canada are closed to all non-essential travel. Additionally, immigrants and nonimmigrants from 30 different countries have been banned from entering the United States.

These countries include:

  • China, as of January 31st
  • Iran, as of February 29th
  • The Schengen Area (26 European states), as of March 11th
  • The United Kingdom and Ireland, as of March 14th

There are exceptions, however, to these travel bans. U.S. citizens, green card holders, and certain qualifying family members are exempt, as are certain government officials or foreign employees traveling to the U.S. for a purpose related to the virus.

Let The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm Address Your Concerns

Due to the rapidly developing nature of the virus, agencies publish announcements and implement new policies on a daily basis. At The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm, we understand how stressful this constantly changing legal landscape can be. We want to support you during this crisis, and we have the skills and years of experience needed to do so.

Call (650) 931-2509 for help accomplishing your immigration goals during the COVID-19 pandemic.