USCIS recently announced that it is preparing to reopen some of its offices and resume naturalization ceremonies and adjustment interviews on or after June 4, 2020. Notices will be sent out to applicants whose interviews and ceremonies were previously canceled because of COVID- 19, so watch your mail for your new appointment dates.

Adjustment Interviews

As with most businesses, USCIS is adapting to COVID-19, and there will be many changes in procedures. Offices will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing, allow time for cleaning and reduce waiting room occupancy. Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow, such as if a person is feeling sick, they should reschedule their appointment for when they are healthy. There is no penalty for rescheduling an appointment if the person is sick. But make sure your request to reschedule your appointment is sent (and received by USCIS) before the date of the appointment date.

Visitors may not enter the building more than 15 minutes before the appointment time, and 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.

Naturalization Ceremonies

USCIS will send notices to applicants to reschedule postponed naturalization ceremonies. The ceremonies may be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance. Instead of playing videos during naturalization ceremonies, attendees will receive a flyer with information and links directing them to the videos on the USCIS website. Under the shortened format, all legally required portions of the ceremony will take place. The applicant may not enter the building more than 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony.

Attendance is limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals assisting disabled persons. Therefore, it appears family and friends can no longer attend the naturalization ceremonies.

Application Support Centers (Fingerprints and Photos)

USCIS will automatically reschedule any necessary ASC appointments that were cancelled due to the temporary office closure. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail with specific safety requirements. 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.

Other Procedures

Other procedures USCIS will put in place are now familiar to people who have endured the “shelter in place” lockdown during this pandemic:

• Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points.

• Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph. There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.

• Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

People should already expect and prepare themselves for delays and long waiting times. The fact that the number of people scheduled for interviews will be reduced will of course create a longer waiting time. For example, if an officer had previously interviewed 20 people a day, but interviews are being reduced to seven people a day, there will be longer waits and delays.

Moreover, under Pres. Trump, with new and stricter rules and regulations, it is almost as though USCIS is looking for ways to deny cases, unless every single requirement is met at the outset. There are new public charge regulations, memos to deny cases at the outset, without serving a request for evidence (if all the evidence is not included in the initial filing), etc.

That is why it is so important that when it comes to your interview, you should consult with and have an attorney represent you at these interviews, to make sure you are eligible, go over the requirements, deal with any legal issues or changes in your circumstances that may come up, and make sure there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding at the interview, which could also result in a denial or deportation.

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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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