Coronavirus and Immigration FAQ
Answers to frequently asked questions about how COVID-19 could affect your green card or naturalization application
The coronavirus outbreak has led to a massive disruption of everyday life across the globe. Immigration has been affected, including to the United States. Consulates, embassies, and domestic U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices have temporarily shut down, and many international borders are closing. You may be wondering how these changes will impact your green card or naturalization application.
In this guide we’ll cover FAQs related to the coronavirus and:
Note: Since the outbreak is a rapidly developing situation, we will modify this guide as we learn more, so be sure to keep checking back for the latest updates.
At this moment, the team at Boundless is doing everything we can to remain operational and ensure applications get to our customers.
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Interviews and Appointments
USCIS local field offices and service centers haver resume non-emergency in-person appointments, with Covid-19 precautions in place. Note that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear face coverings when entered USCIS offices.
USCIS has resumed oath ceremonies, but they are shorter in length. Unless the naturalization applicant needs assistance for a disability, no one is allowed to accompany you to the ceremony.
Usually applicants go to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office in-person to apply for a social security number (SSN), which is a quick process and generally results in issuance of a SSN in about one week. Unfortunately, given the length of the shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the SSA is also backlogged. Call your local office to see if an in-office appointment is necessary. Local SSA office contact information can be found here.
Generally speaking, if a person’s social security card does not arrive within two weeks after receiving one’s work permit, and they cannot get an in-person appointment at their local SSA office, they will typically follow the advice of the SSA agent who they speak with on the phone. Finally, SSN applicants are able to set up a My Social Security account online, if they have not already done so. This account typically allows applicants to track their SSN application, especially if they have mailed in their documents to the SSA office. Sign in or create an account here. Those who mail their applications to the SSA office for review will generally track and insure their package to prevent the loss of important documents.
USCIS is currently facing a backlog due to COVID-19, as well as a recent series of budget cuts to avoid furloughs. This has led to increased processing times for immigrant visas. One such change is that we’ve seen individuals receive their work permits and travel permits before having their biometrics taken. As of yet, there is not enough information available to be sure what the new processing times are but for the most recent and accurate updates, applicants can always check here first.
Covid-19 led to delayed K1 visa processing in many countries. As restrictions begin to ease, most U.S. embassies and consulates have resumed certain nonimmigrant visa appointments, including for K1 visas. Learn the current status of K1 visa processing by country in our blog post. Note that USCIS is still accepting and processing Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)). Despite possible delays during the second stage (embassy stage) of the K1 visa process, applicants are encouraged to apply now, in order to jump-start the process. For as little as $1149, Boundless can help you complete and file your K1 visa application with confidence.
USCIS extended the response deadlines for RFEs and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) due to Covid-19. If an RFE or NOID was issued between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, applicants now have an additional 60 days beyond the original deadline to respond to USCIS.
Please provide a letter on company letterhead confirming that your employer has closed temporarily due to coronavirus. Note: USCIS may not consider this to be sufficient evidence proving current income and your chances of receiving a Request for Evidence (or “RFE”) may increase. Make sure to check with your independent immigration attorney if a letter from your employer will suffice.
USCIS considers other factors beyond income, namely your assets and whether or not you’ve chosen to use a joint sponsor.
If you are the beneficiary, a lack of work history and current employment may negatively affect your application. However, USCIS looks at every application on a case-by-case basis.
K-1 visa beneficiaries living in countries subject to one of the entry bans, namely the People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, or South Africa, will only have their petitions processed if they qualify for a National Interest Exception. Otherwise, they will not be scheduled for a K-1 visa interview until the entry ban has been lifted.
There are few provisions under U.S. law to extend the stay of people admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (or “VWP”). One option is for you and your attorney to request “Satisfactory Departure,” which may allow you to remain in the United States for an additional 30 days. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is considering whether to extend this period if people under the VWP are unable to depart the United States after their initial 30-day period because of COVID-19 issues.
As long an individual has remained in status and leaves the country before their visa expires, this generally will not pose any issues. Be sure to speak to an independent attorney if you have overstayed your visa and wish to change your application process.
Violating a visa may negatively impact an application and produce further legal complexities. Please reach out to your independent attorney to find out if Satisfactory Departure (see above) is the right option for you.