Latest Updates: Coronavirus and Immigration


Find out how COVID-19 is impacting immigration to the United States

Nov 17, 2020


U.S. immigrants wear face masks amidst the coronavirus outbreak.The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Numerous countries, including the United States, have implemented travel or entry restrictions at their ports of entry. These changes will impact nonimmigrant visa holders as well as certain immigrants. The outbreak has also disrupted immigration services and proceedings within the United States.

*This page is updated regularly with information about COVID-19 and its effect on U.S. immigration.

The New York Times is keeping a rolling list of updates about travel restrictions around the world, and the State Department lists restrictions by country. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has published a report looking at the ways different countries are responding to the outbreak.

Nov. 17

*DOS updated its announcement and FAQs on the phased resumption of visa services, noting that it will resume routine visa services on a post-by-post basis, but is unable to provide a specific date for when each mission will resume specific visa services, or when each mission will return to processing at pre-COVID levels. DOS also announced that it has extended the validity of Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees until December 31, 2021, to allow all applicants who were unable to schedule a visa appointment due to the suspension of routine consular operations an opportunity to schedule and/or attend a visa appointment with the fee they already paid.

Nov. 6

*Read this comprehensive report from the American Immigration Council on the impact of the coronavirus on immigration and non-U.S. citizens.

Oct. 8

*The Trump administration announced earlier this week that it would impose further restrictions on the H-1B work visa program. USCIS said in a statement that the move would ensure jobs go to American workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sept. 21

*USCIS will continue to allow green card applicants to respond to Requests for Evidence (RFE) within 60 days of receiving one. The extension will apply to requests dated between March 1 and September 11.

Sept. 15

*An appeals court paused an injunction that temporarily halted the public charge rule from being enforced while the country is under a national public health emergency due to COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is likely to re-impose the rule nationwide.

Sept. 11

* The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected immigrant workers, and according to new data, could significantly slow down America’s economic recovery.

Sept. 8

*A federal judge has temporarily barred the Trump administration from applying its travel ban to winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery, finding that the ban is possibly unlawful. Learn more here about who is affected by President Trump’s travel ban.

Aug. 31

*USCIS announced that, starting Aug. 28, posts will be authorized to give K visa applications high priority. Currently, Boundless can help you complete your marriage green card application, but not a K-1 visa application. Head over to our K-1 visa partner today for help putting together all required forms and documents and submitting them to the government, starting at $429.

Aug. 25

*U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency would avert its plans to furlough about 13,400 employees come Aug. 30 and that it would continue operating through the end of fiscal year 2020. USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement that aggressive spending cuts will “increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs,” adding that congressional funding will be necessary to keep the agency afloat in 2021.

Aug. 19

*USCIS will allow employees to use their Form I-797 (Notice of Action) — the approval notice for the Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) — as proof of employment eligibility if the approval notice was issued between December 1, 2019 and August 20, 2020. The decision comes after processing delays of Employment Authorization Documents due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aug. 17

*USCIS is planning to furlough two-thirds of its staff at the end of the month, which could “grind [legal immigration] to a halt.”

Aug. 12

*An appeals court ruled on Aug. 12 that the recent order blocking the Trump administration’s public charge rules would only apply within New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. The decision follows an earlier ruling that temporarily halted the rule from being enforced nationwide while the United States is under a national public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aug. 11

*Moderna, the first company to submit a vaccine for testing against COVID-19, was founded by an immigrant. A number of its leadership positions, including its CEO, are also immigrants.

Aug. 5

*A federal judge ruled that USCIS must start printing delayed work permits within seven days. U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley said the lack income left some plaintiffs homeless and more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Aug. 3

*On July 29, 2020, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from continuing to enforce its “public charge” rules while the United States is under a national public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, on July 31 announced it will evaluate green card applications filed from outside the United States based on the public charge guidance in effect prior to Feb. 24, 2020.

July 24

*USCIS postponed its plan to furlough about 13,400 employees until Aug. 31, according to a July 24 press release from the office of Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

July 20

*The State Department will soon resume visa services on a post-by-post basis at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. Family of U.S. citizens, students, and emergency travel appointments will resume first. The agency provided no further information about which embassies would reopen first or when services would start again.

July 14

*The Trump administration has rescinded a policy that would have stripped U.S. visas from foreign students if their courses were entirely online.

July 13

*The New York Times investigated the ways U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) helped spread the coronavirus.

July 8

*Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) sue the Trump administration to block a policy that would force foreign students to leave the country if all their coursework is online. Harvard’s president said in a statement that the directive was designed to pressure higher education institutions to hold in-person lessons “without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others.”

July 2

*USCIS will continue to allow green card applicants to respond to Requests for Evidence (RFE) within 60 days of receiving one. The extension will apply to requests dated between March 1 and September 11.

June 25

*President Trump’s latest visa restrictions favor workers from wealthier countries, according to Boundless.

June 22

*The Trump administration will suspend H-1B and other temporary work visas until the end of 2020, in a move that could affect more than half a million people each year, a senior official told reporters on Monday.

June 12

*DHS plans to send furlough notices in July to three-quarters of its workforce if Congress doesn’t intervene and provide emergency funding. The agency says it has experienced a significant drop in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

June 8

*Immigration rights activists say USCIS still hasn’t come up with a solid plan to work through the backlog of people waiting to become citizens who had their oath ceremonies canceled due to the pandemic.

*This page shows which federal COVID-19 relief programs are available to immigrants.

June 4

*USCIS reopens today some of its field offices and asylum offices to the public. The agency will take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus at its facilities. If you have an appointment but you feel ill, don’t go in, advises USCIS. Rather, follow the instructions on your appointment notice and reschedule when you are healthy.

May 27

*USCIS plans to furlough a portion of its 19,000 employees if Congress doesn’t provide the federal agency with $1.2 billion in emergency funding to remain operational during the coronavirus pandemic.

May 26

*President Trump issues a proclamation suspending travel into the United States for any person who was in Brazil within 14 days prior to their arrival, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Brazil joins a growing list of countries on the travel ban list, including the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China.

May 21

*The Trump administration considers restricting legal immigration further during the pandemic by suspending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows foreign students to remain in the United States for an additional one or two years after completing their studies.

May 20

*A Boundless Immigration Guide answers frequently asked questions on our YouTube channel about how the coronavirus pandemic might impact your green card or naturalization application.

May 19

*There’s a chance the public charge rule could be temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19. A Manhattan federal judge said Monday that the legal landscape had changed since the virus took hold and he pushed the government to explain why he shouldn’t issue an injunction suspending the controversial rule.

May 18

*USCIS is running out of money as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and has requested $1.2 billion from Congress. The federal agency says the drop in green card, naturalization and other applications has led to a “dramatic decrease in revenue.”

May 15

*U.S. citizens with immigrant spouses sue the government for withholding coronavirus relief checks.

May 13

*The Trump administration is moving to extend its virus border restrictions indefinitely, reports the New York Times.

*A new report released today from Boundless found that, as COVID-19 has halted naturalization across the United States, surging processing times and application backlogs have created a logjam of applicants leading up to the 2020 election. Learn more here.

May 12

*House Democrats unveil the HEROES Act, a new coronavirus relief bill. The legislation proposes remote naturalization oath ceremonies and extending immigration deadlines. Find the full summary here.

*Read this helpful FAQ guide if you’re in H1-B or L-1 status and waiting for a green card during the coronavirus pandemic.

May 7

*The Trump administration may soon propose further immigration restrictions, suspending entry of those carrying H1-B visas coming from outside the United States.

May 4

*U.S. senators are proposing a bill to free up 40,000 employment visas for immigrant doctors and nurses to help combat COVID-19.

May 1

*USCIS is extending deadlines for a Request for Evidence (RFE), andwill consider a response to a request or notice…received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action.”

April 28

*Over 200,000 workers in the United States on H1-B visas might lose their legal status by June, “a catastrophe at a human level and an economic level,” says Boundless co-founder Doug Rand.

April 27

*A new lawsuit was filed over the weekend attempting to block the new immigration ban. Litigators from the Justice Action Center (JAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and Innovation Law Lab said in a statement that the President’s proclamation is “another unlawful attempt to upend the family-based immigration system that is fundamental to our society and shared prosperity.”

*Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf hints that further immigration restrictions may be coming down the pike, aimed at nonimmigrant, temporary visas.

April 24

*USCIS announces its field offices will reopen June 4, unless local or state closures remain in place. Learn more here about the types of services USCIS currently is providing.

*The State Department still will not process any non-emergency or mission-critical visas, regardless of the proclamation.

April 23

*American citizens who are married to immigrants without Social Security numbers will not receive stimulus checks as part of the government’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

April 22

*Trump signed his executive order limited immigration into the United States. Boundless did the math, and calculated that nearly 360,000 green cards will be blocked every year under the new plan. The proclamation won’t apply to people filing green cards from within the United States (“adjustment of status“).

April 21

*Trump said during a press briefing Tuesday that he likely would sign the executive order the following day, and that it would remain in effect for at least 60 days. It still isn’t clear which green card categories will be affected.

April 20

*President Trump announces on Twitter that he will sign an executive order suspending immigration to the United States. Boundless will keep you updated as we learn more.

April 18

*New York couples can now obtain a marriage license remotely and get married online. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an executive order that clerks would be allowed to perform wedding ceremonies using video conferencing.

*Immigrant networking app Homeis has transformed from a resource for immigrants navigating everyday life in a foreign country to a “COVID-19 helpline.”

April 17

*Learn how Boundless is responding to the pandemic with this message from our CEO. “While the pandemic has impacted businesses across the globe, Boundless remains fully operational and committed to helping you fulfill your immigration goals,” writes Boundless CEO Xiao Wang. “We’ve taken all the necessary measures to ensure we support our customers while keeping our team safe throughout this challenging time.”

*Foreign doctors who have visa petitions or have been accepted into an exchange visitor program can request emergency visas to help the fight against COVID-19.

April 16

*California will offer one-time cash payments of $500 in coronavirus relief to undocumented immigrants.

April 15

*Slate publishes a first-person account of an immigrant whose green card interview was canceled. “I haven’t been home in more than four years, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to visit again,” writes graduate student Karen Kwon, originally from South Korea.

April 13

*New York, Vermont, and Connecticut ask the Supreme Court to suspend the public charge rule during the coronavirus pandemic. “By deterring immigrants from accessing publicly funded health care, including programs that would enable immigrants to obtain testing and treatment for Covid-19, the rule makes it more likely that immigrants will suffer serious illness if infected and spread the virus inadvertently to others — risks that are heightened because immigrants make up a large proportion of the essential workers who continue to interact with the public,” the motion said.

*USCIS publishes a list of options for nonimmigrants who remain in the United States beyond their authorized period of stay due to the coronavirus.

April 9

*Chinese workers, who accounted for around 15% of H1-B visas issued in 2019, are losing their jobs due to the pandemic at a rate that outpaces the 2008 recession. When they lose their jobs, they also lose their visa status. Those who decide to return home to China can’t because tickets are too expensive.

April 8

*House Democrats urge DHS and DOS to “extend work authorization for foreign health care workers currently employed in the U.S. and to allow foreign doctors to work in states other than the ones in which they are licensed to practice,” according to Law360.

April 6

*The New York City Marriage Bureau is closed until further notice. The City Clerk has answers to frequently asked questions here.

*Boundless publishes a new blog post, “Coronavirus Shutdown Could Put 2020 Voting Out of Reach For Hundreds of Thousands of New Americans“.

April 3

*AILA has filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS, urging the court to “pause USCIS deadlines and expirations from March 13, the day President Donald Trump declared a national health emergency, until 90 days after the emergency is called off,” according to Law360.

*Thousands of immigrants won’t be eligible for coronavirus stimulus checks from the government. “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act specifically mandates that people considered ‘nonresident aliens’ won’t be eligible for the $1,200 per adult and $500 per child benefit,” according to Law360.

*The U.S. State Department won’t be processing passports except for emergencies. “Due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, we are only able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours,” said the agency in a statement.

April 1

*USCIS extends temporary office closures until at least May 3. To schedule an emergency appointment, contact the USCIS Contact Center.

March 30

*USCIS will continue processing Form I-765 (Employment Authorization Document) extension requests despite Application Support Center closures. The agency says it will reuse an applicant’s previously submitted biometrics to complete requests for extension.

March 27

*USCIS announces that applicants will have an additional 60 days to respond to a Request For Evidence (RFE).

March 26

*Immigration advocacy group New American Economy finds that 16.5% of all healthcare workers in the United States are immigrants. “Immigrants are fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” write the authors.

March 25

*Boundless releases a guide covering frequently asked questions about how the coronavirus might affect your green card or naturalization application.

March 22

*President Trump says undocumented immigrants can get tested for the coronavirus without fear of deportation or arrest.

March 20

*United States and Mexico to restrict all “non-essential” travel (tourism or recreational in nature) across its borders. Exceptions include travel for medical reasons, work, or school.

*USCIS announces it will no longer require a “wet” signature on immigration forms during the outbreak. “This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified,” USCIS said in a statement.

March 18

*The State Department will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments at embassies and consulates worldwide, starting March 18. The agency said it would provide emergency and urgent services where possible. Your visa fee will remain valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country where you paid within 1 year of payment.

*United States and Canada will restrict “non-essential” travel between the two countries. Trump tweeted, “We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!”

March 17

*USCIS will temporarily shut down all of its offices due to the outbreak. The agency said in a statement it would be closing all of its field offices and postponing naturalization ceremonies until at least April 1. Applicants with scheduled appointments or naturalization ceremonies will receive notices with instructions. Appointments will be automatically rescheduled once field offices reopen. If you had an InfoPass appointment with a field office, you’ll need to reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center.

March 16

*All routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico will be suspended starting March 18, until further notice. This includes “both visa interviews at the embassy and consulates as well as processing at the Centros de Atención a Solicitantes (CAS).” Applicants with appointments will receive cancellation alerts via email. If you have questions, visit this page.

*All routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Paris have been canceled indefinitely. If you need to travel urgently, visit this page for more information. If you have questions, email fae_contactus+fr+mrv+en@visaops.net, call +33 1 82 88 29 57 (local number) or dial +1 703 543 9342 (If you are calling from within the United States), to request an emergency appointment.

*All routine and nonimmigrant visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India have been canceled indefinitely. If you need to travel immediately, visit this page to request an emergency appointment.

*The Seattle Immigration Court will be closed through April 10. These courts will remain open, but postpone non-detained master calendar hearings: Boston, Los Angeles (North Los Angeles, Olive, Van Nuys), Newark, New York City (Broadway; Federal Plaza; Varick), Sacramento, and San Francisco.

*The European Union approves a 30-day ban on non-essential travel to 26 European countries.

March 14

*President Trump announces that the United States will expand its European travel restrictions to Ireland and the United Kingdom.

*Russia says it will close its borders with Norway and Poland to foreigners starting Mar. 15.

March 13

*USCIS announces that seeking treatment or preventative care for COVID-19 will not  be considered a negative factor under the new public charge rule. The agency says it will not consider “testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” in a public charge determination.

*The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will temporarily pause international exchange programs that involve travel to and from countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems a level 2 or level 3 travel risk.

*The USCIS Seattle Field Office reopened Mar. 11 after closing last week when an employee tested positive for the virus. So far, Seattle is the only field office that has shut due to the coronavirus. Learn more here about USCIS office closings.

*The Seattle Immigration Court has been closed since Mar. 11 due to a “secondary [coronavirus] exposure.” According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), filings due during this closure “will be considered timely filed if received on the court’s next business day.” In the meantime, emergency filings may be filed with the Tacoma Immigration Court.

*Some government offices are canceling and postponing naturalization ceremonies. But certain USCIS field offices are offering same-day naturalization to those who are over 60, pregnant, and/or sick. USCIS is not permitted to ask about an applicant’s medical history, so if you believe you qualify for a same-day oath ceremony, let the officer know during your interview so the necessary steps can be taken.

* USCIS asks that you consider canceling or rescheduling your appointment at a field office if you:

  • Believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19;
  • Are experiencing flu-like symptoms including runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, or headache;
  • Recently visited a country designated a “level 3” because of the coronavirus. Currently, the CDC has urged the public to avoid any non-essential travel to China, Iran, and most of Europe.

*Guatemala announces that from Mar. 16, all arrivals from the United States and Canada will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Earlier in the week, the country had banned travelers from European countries, Iran, China, South Korea, and North Korea.

* For Washington residents, Washington Health Plan Finder announced on its homepage: “In response to the potential growth of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, a special enrollment period is now available through April 8, 2020 to qualified individuals who are uninsured. Apple Health enrollment is year-round. To see if you qualify for special enrollment or Apple Health, call customer support between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday – Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY 1-855-627-9604, or contact a local certified insurance broker or navigator. Visit the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) FAQs page for more information.”

* Denmark, Poland, and Ukraine announce border closures to foreign nationals:

  • Denmark: Danish citizens and residents, as well as Danish green card holders (Denmark’s work permit) will still be allowed to enter the country. Borders will be closed for everyone else until April 14.
  • Poland: Poland will bar foreigners from entering the country starting Mar. 15. Any Polish citizens returning home will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
  • Ukraine: Ukraine will close its borders to foreigners starting Mar. 15. Borders will remain closed for two weeks, possibly longer.

March 11

* President Trump announces restrictions on travel from more than two dozen European countries, including Spain, Italy, and Germany. Note: The ban only applies to foreign nationals and not to:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Legal permanent residents (green card holders)
  • Spouses of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, provided the U.S. citizen or green card holder is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, provided they are both unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Children, foster children, or wards of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or a prospective adoptee

Visit whitehouse.gov for the full list.

*El Salvador will only allow residents and citizens into the country, and they will need to quarantine for 30 days.

February 29

* President Trump bans all entry into the United States of travelers from Iran, excluding U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents (green card holders), as well as certain close relatives.

January 31

* President Trump bans all entry into the United States of all travelers from the People’s Republic of China, excluding U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents (green card holders), as well as certain close relatives.

HELPFUL LINKS

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Law Review: Coronavirus and Immigration Q&A

U.S. Government Updates

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Country-specific information concerning COVID-19. (U.S. Department of State)


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