The current Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has created much fear, stress, and uncertainty for many people across the world. On top of the health concerns, COVID-19 is also impacting the processing of U.S. immigration cases. Continue reading below to learn more about how COVID-19 may impact the processing of your current or prospective U.S. immigration case and our recommendations.
Overview of U.S. Immigration Steps Which Could Be Delayed by COVID-19:
Before a U.S. immigration case can be approved and before a person/company can receive a U.S. immigration benefit, many different U.S. immigration agencies need to complete numerous verification procedures and steps. For example, in the case of a family-based Green Card application processed at an overseas U.S. Consulate or Embassy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs to adjudicate and approve the Form I-130; the National Visa Center (NVC) needs to confirm the receipt of all required forms, fees, and supporting documentation; and, the U.S. Consulate/Embassy generally needs to conduct an in-person interview before approving the immigrant visa application. Of course, even with an approved immigrant visa, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) still has the right to deny entry to any visa-holder. Note that this is a just a summary of the required steps, and these steps will vary depending on the type of U.S. immigration benefit sought and your individual case.
Below is a summary of the U.S. immigration services currently being provided and not provided as of April 15, 2020, by various U.S. immigration agencies during COVID-19. These services and dates are subject to change.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
USCIS has “temporarily suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS plans to begin reopening [its] offices on May 4, unless the public closures are extended further. USCIS staff are continuing to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. However, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations.”
In sum, USCIS is still accepting, adjudicating, and approving U.S. immigration cases, but they are not conducting any in-person interviews or other in-person services, if required, unless it is an emergency. As of April 15, 2020, USCIS offices will re-open on May 4, 2020, for these routine interviews, in-person appointments, and more.
National Visa Center (NVC):
The NVC is still processing cases at this time, but, because of COVID-19, the NVC is operating with reduced staff. Accordingly, there will likely be delays in the processing of cases. In addition, the NVC has confirmed that it will not reply to routine message inquiries submitted to them on or before March 27, 2020. The NVC is, instead, focusing on responding to urgent humanitarian or medical inquiries made via the “Ask NVC” form.
U.S. Consulates and Embassies Worldwide:
This is the latest relevant information for all U.S. Consulates and Embassies around the world: “In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.”
However, services to U.S. citizens are generally still being provided. And services should be available for emergencies and urgent matters.
In view of the foregoing, with the exception of non-immigrant visa applications which do not require an approved USCIS petition, U.S. Consultancy Group, LLC, recommends that individuals file for U.S. immigration benefits as soon as possible to avoid even longer processing delays. This is especially true for cases which will require interviews with USCIS or a U.S. Consulate or Embassy because there will likely be a huge backlog of interview spots when USCIS and the U.S. Consulates and Embassies re-open to conduct these interviews. In addition, most U.S. immigration agencies are still accepting and adjudicating cases, but this may change. Likewise, it is important to file some cases as early as possible to obtain an early priority date. And, despite the closure of some of the above-mentioned government immigration services, if you have a humanitarian need or other emergency, U.S. Consultancy Group, LLC, may be able to assist you.
If you have any questions or require the U.S. immigration services of U.S. Consultancy Group, LLC, please contact us.