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When Will USCIS Reopen? New Procedures

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the latest update regarding reopening procedures for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices nationwide.

Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


On May 27, 2020, USCIS announced that some domestic field offices and asylum offices would begin to reopen to the public on or after June 4, 2020. Unfortunately, as June 4th came and went, it became evident that USCIS would not be able to reopen its offices on June 4th. USCIS recently published an office closure webpage which shows that all field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers are still closed to the public, except for those seeking urgent emergency services. Unfortunately, this means that there will be delays in reopening offices nationwide. We have received information that the San Diego Field Office plans to reopen during the month of July. Based on this information we believe that the majority of field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers will also reopen around this time frame.

Even when USCIS offices do reopen, it will not be business as usual. USCIS has said it will be reducing the number of appointments and interviews at its offices to comply with social distancing requirements. As a result, USCIS will not be scheduling nearly as many biometrics appointments and interviews as it did before the coronavirus pandemic. This will result in further delays in the adjudication of applications and petitions that require an interview such as applications for permanent residency and naturalization.


Changes in Procedures


When offices do reopen, there will be strict guidelines for visitors to follow. Visitors will not be allowed to enter any USCIS facility if they have symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days, or have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.

In addition, visitors will not be allowed to enter any USCIS facility more than 15 minutes prior to the start of their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies). Visitors must wear masks that cover both the mouth and nose when entering USCIS facilities. Visitors can be directed to briefly remove their mask to confirm their identity or have their photograph taken. During appointments, plexiglass will separate the applicant from the immigration officer to ensure the safety of applicants and personnel.

There will be clear markings and physical barriers installed throughout each facility directing visitors to follow social distancing guidelines. Visitors have been encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.


Asylum Interview Rescheduling


Asylum interviews that were cancelled because of the pandemic will be automatically rescheduled. Asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice in the mail with a new time, date, and location for their interview.

Asylum interviews will be facilitated by video, meaning that applicants and officers will not have any face to face interaction. The applicant will be directed to sit in one room and the interviewing officer will sit in another room.

For affirmative asylum interviews, applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents on the application and an interpreter, if the applicant does not speak English.  Additionally, a representative, witness, individual providing disability accommodations or “trusted adult” if an applicant is a minor, may attend the interview.

For non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, individuals must bring any family members listed on the interview notice. Representatives may attend credible and reasonable fear interviews but are encouraged to participate telephonically. USCIS will provide contracted, professional interpreters for credible and reasonable fear interviews.


Naturalization Ceremonies


USCIS will mail notices to applicants rescheduling postponed naturalization ceremonies. Ceremonies will be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance. Attendance will be limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals providing assistance to disabled persons.


USCIS Interviews and Appointments


USCIS will mail notices to applicants and petitioners with previously scheduled appointments and interviews.

Those who had infopass appointments must reschedule them through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public.

Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member and one individual providing disability accommodations. The applicant should arrange to have their interpreter available by phone.


Application Support Centers


USCIS will automatically reschedule any necessary ASC appointments that were cancelled due to temporary office closures. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail with instructions. Individuals who appear at a date or time other than what is listed on the ASC appointment notice may encounter significant processing delays, except for military members.

We will continue to monitor the USCIS news page and inform our readers once offices begin to reopen.


Questions?


If you have any questions or concerns regarding these updates please contact us at jacob@h1b.biz or call our office at 619-819-9204 for a consultation.

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