UPDATED: Immigration is Still processing Green Cards & Visas During COVID19

With all the closures that have happened across the board, many people think Immigration services have been suspended as well

This is not true! Many Immigration services are still going. Immigration is still open and so are we!

During the pandemic we are not only getting daily updates, but sometimes hourly updates so continue to check back as we will be posting the latest updates here.

Here is what you need to know about Immigration services in US During COVID-19

What’s closed?

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily closed our offices to the public and cancelled all appointments, interviews, and ceremonies to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). That temporary closure is currently in effect through May 3.

Harlan York & Associates continues to work and are performing mission-essential functions that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public.

What if I have an immigration emergency?

During this time, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To request an emergency appointment, contact the USCIS Contact Center: https://uscis.gov/contactcenter.

We are still receiving green cards and visas in the mail

Mail is coming every day. In fact we got a green card in the mail for a client just this morning.  Immigration is serving and processing, receiving and receding cases for Green Cards, Visas, Citizenships, and the like. Even if they have suspended their in-person services. I also want people to understand that immigration is WORKING. The US immigration service is actively working on cases.

People should be encouraged to check in with a legal professional if you are unsure about your obligations to attend an immigration appointment. For example: recently we had a client with a citizenship interview scheduled for Mid-April. He got an email from USCIS saying: your case has been cancelled. The email citation goes to language on a government website, saying your appointment has been cancelled only through April 1. Confusing, right?

Check in with a top immigration lawyer.

What’s been cancelled?

All face to face meetings to protect immigrants and those working in immigration. In the last couple of days, all immigration court in non-detained matters have been postponed through May 1 2020. This is the by-product of a lot of effort by lawyers, the union representing ICE, and immigration judges themselves.

What about those immigrants who are actively fighting a case?

If you are actively fighting a case, and there are 1.1 million cases in the US in removal or deportation proceedings, YOUR CASE IS STILL PENDING. The only action is a temporary suspension in dates, like what we’ve seen in government shutdowns or hurricanes.

Also detained immigration court cases are ongoing.

Good news for visas & work permits for dreamers and others

The fingerprint and biometrics requirement for work permits for dreamers under DACA as well as generally for people who are filing applications for work application renewals – they will use fingerprints ALREADY on file.

Work permits will continue to be processed despite immigration scaling down operations during the pandemic. This means that they will reuse previously submitted fingerprints and biometrics to process valid work authorization applications and extension requests because fingerprint offices  (application support centers) have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19.

This is good news; this means that if you filed a work authorization and you worried there would be a delay or a problem with your work authorization based on DACA or some other pending application, perhaps for green card or political asylum, your work permit will be processed routinely while the service uses your previous biometrics and fingerprints.

In-person interviews have been cancelled through May 3

Appointments for green cards, citizenship, and fingerprints, have been cancelled through May 3. Cancellation notices have been sent in the mail, with new appointment times in the future. Just like has happened during other crisis in our country like 9.11 or government shutdowns.

We will get back to normal and be stronger!

Remember, our immigration law firm is operating. While our model has changed temporarily to remote Services, we are accepting new cases. We are also actively working on all pending cases.

Here’s what you need to know for specific immigration services.

  1. For those scheduled for naturalization, Green Card, or other interview at a field office?
    You don’t need to do anything. Immigration will mail you a new interview notice when normal operations resume.
  2. For those scheduled for a biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center?
    You don’t need to do anything. Immigration will mail you a notice with further instructions.
  3. For immigrants waiting for an asylum interview?
    You don’t need to do anything. USCIS will mail you a new interview notice when normal operations resume.
  4. For immigrants waiting for a naturalization oath ceremony?
    You don’t need to do anything. USCIS will mail you a new oath ceremony notice when normal operations resume.
  5. For those waiting for an emergency service such as advance parole?
    You need to call the USCIS Contact Center for immediate rescheduling: https://uscis.gov/contactcenter
  6. For those waiting for an appointment at a field office for something other than an interview or ceremony?
    Check https://uscis.gov/closings to learn when your field office will reopen. Then, call the USCIS Contact Center to reschedule your appointment: https://uscis.gov/contactcenter

In conclusion: don’t panic, call us if you have any immigration related questions at this time.

I just want to remind people, the traditional media / tv news / social media can be very distorted. Don’t believe everything you read. Immigration is actively working. When you go to the immigration services website, check processing times. We are often seeing cases take less time than what is being reported.

Five minutes a day of “news” is really all you need. Most of what you read is going to be fear based.

Remember, good news is coming. Approvals are still coming.  We received a client’s green card in the mail today. We are going to come out of this, and come out stronger on the other side. Don’t be afraid, we are here to answer all your questions and fight for you. Let’s all stay healthy and safe.

 

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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