COVID-19 immigration update as of March 30, 2020

WITH the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with “stay-at-home,” “shelter in place,” quarantines, travel bans, etc., there has been a profound effect on immigration. Here are some of the latest restrictions, limitations, and changes as of March 30, 2020. This is not an exhaustive list, and is subject to change literally on a daily basis:

1. For those who have filed work authorization extension requests (Form I-765), which ordinarily require fingerprinting, USCIS will reuse your existing fingerprints on file, rather than having you go to an Application Support Center (ACS) to be re-fingerprinted.

2. For those of you who have a response due by a particular date, USCIS has provided for a 60-day extension from the due date for any response to a Request for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), Notice of Intent to Revoke NOIR), Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT), or to file an appeal from a decision to the AAO, in connection with any decision/denial issued between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020.
a. For example, if a NOID is issued April 1, 2020, with a response date of May 1, 2020, the person would have an additional 60 days beyond May 1, 2020 to respond.

3. Unfortunately, USCIS continues to serve denials and requests for additional evidence while people are subject to the shelter in place quarantines. It is “business as usual” for USCIS, even as the officers continue to work from home. I believe it is unfair, as we don’t know if the shelter in place or pandemic will be resolved within those 60 days. Moreover, it is difficult for people to be able to gather the appropriate information and documents for responses, such as declarations, leases, bank records, birth certificates from overseas, or other documentation necessary for a response or appeal. People may risk a denial for not providing sufficient documentation when they are prevented from being able to properly gather documentation or respond. USCIS should simply hold these types of decisions\denials in abeyance until this pandemic is over.

However, if a person should miss a deadline because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in certain circumstances there could still be relief available based on “extraordinary circumstances.”

For my part, my office is still open and operational in order to serve our clients and community. While we are all operating remotely from our homes, all of our staff members are equipped with technology and tools to continue to call clients, work on cases, and keep clients informed at all times. Consultations are still done by phone. This is a testimony to our commitment in serving our clients, and we are prepared to do so no matter what.

This is a very difficult time for all of us, requiring virtually an overnight retooling in the way we operate. But we are up to the challenge, and we will continue to keep you informed of any further developments.”

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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.

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