The Impact of COVID-19 at the Consular Level
On July 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced the phased resumption of routine visa services. This phased resumption will transpire on a post-by-post basis in accordance with all COVID safety regulations in place. U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue to provide visa services for mission critical reasons, emergencies, and expedited visa processing.Timeline for Visa Services
The Department of State did not provide a specific timeline for the resumption of the visa services, and stated that the schedule will be dependent on conditions nearby each consular post.Does This Mean That All Visa Categories will Be Processed?
Unfortunately, this is not the case. A number of key presidential proclamations still remain in place, and in turn the effect of those restrictions limit the issuance of certain visa categories, even as consulates open up routine visa services. However, applicants may still request emergency appointments, file expedite requests, and apply for national interest exceptions to allow them to apply for and receive a U.S. visa.Do Past Presidential Proclamations Still Apply?
Individuals from the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Schengen Countries, China, Iran and Brazil, who are not specifically exempted from the Proclamations are still prohibited entry to the U.S. Several other Proclamations may also suspend the issuance of visas for certain visa holders including H-1B , H-2B , J-1 , and L-1 visa applicants residing abroad and their dependents.K Visa Applicants
The Department of State announced that effective August 28, 2020, K visa cases would be given high priority. Applicants are encouraged to check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on what services the post closest to them is offering. Additionally, consular officers may revalidate I-129F petitions in 4 month increments since a I-129F petition is typically valid for only 4 months. It will not be necessary to file for a new I-129F petition for most cases.
The Sapochnick Law Firm will continue to monitor developments with respect to policy changes and will post updates on VisaLawyerBlog and in the firm’s Coronavirus Resource Center as additional information becomes available.Responding to USCIS Requests
USCIS announced on September 11, 2020, that the agency will be extending its policy offering flexibility to applicants who have received notices for additional documents for their cases and who must respond to these requests by the stated deadline. This is an extension to the announcement that was first made by USCIS in March of 2020. According to the USCIS website, this flexibility will assist applicants, petitioners, and requestors who are must respond to the following:
- Requests for Evidence
- Continuation to Request Evidence (N-14)
- Notices of Intent to Deny
- Notices of Intent to Revoke
- Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers
- 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
- Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion
Applicants who have received any of the aforementioned notices are granted an additional 60 calendar days after the due date/deadline stated to provide a response. This flexibility has been provided during the Coronavirus pandemic to give applicants ample time to gather the documents requested. Such flexibility applies to the above documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice, or decision is between March 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, inclusive.COVID-19 and Special Immigrants
Asylum applicants have faced many challenges during the Coronavirus pandemic including extensive backlogs at immigration courts nationwide. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), announced that only certain immigration courts have resumed hearings in non-detained cases. Hearings pertaining to non-detained cases at courts without an announced date are postponed until October 30, 2020.
We look forward to continuing to provide further information regarding immigration for special immigrants in the time of coronavirus.COVID-19 and the Public Charge Rule
The USCIS announced on September 11, 2020, that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit would resume implementing the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility rule nationwide, including the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont. Applicants applying for an adjustment of status must continue to file Form I-944 Declaration of Self- Sufficiency including all supporting documentation.
The Sapochnick Law Firm will continue to monitor developments with respect to policy changes and will post updates on VisaLawyerBlog and in the firm’s Coronavirus Resource Center as additional information becomes available.