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The Effects of Coronavirus on USCIS Processing of Applications and Petitions

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Due to the continued increase in the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus, USCIS and many other agencies instrumental in processing applications for immigration benefits, have shut down or drastically reduced their functions – leaving many applications and petitions in limbo.

The Seattle Field Office was the first USCIS office to temporarily close its doors in early March after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. As the number of people infected increased, USCIS decided on March 18th to close all of its offices to the public. This included all field offices, Application Support Centers and asylum offices.

Currently, USCIS is scheduled to reopen its doors on May 4th – barring any extended social distancing requirements from the government, which is likely to happen.

While in-person operations have been suspended, USCIS continues to accept and process applications and petitions. In an effort to decrease continue delays in processing, the Service has decided to use old biometrics for applicants wishing to renew their employment authorization applications. Unfortunately, for those who are filing initial applications, they will likely have to wait until the Application Support Centers re-open and their fingerprint notices are re-scheduled, since USCIS does not have old biometrics to use to continue to process their applications.

Additionally, the Service announced it will waive all requirements for original signatures on petitions, applications and other documents ( such as affidavits). USCIS will accept the documents if the signatures have been copied, scanned or faxed – electronic signatures are still not permitted.

All naturalization oath ceremonies have been put on hold until operations return to normal.

Lastly, USCIS has extended the deadlines for responses to Requests for Evidence (REF ) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID) by 60 days. Both RFEs and NOIDs come with a standard 87 day response deadline. In response to COVID-19, USCIS is extending the deadline by an additional 60 days. This extension only applies to RFEs and NOIDs received as of March 18th. Anything received prior to that date, is subject to the standard 87 day deadline listed on the request.

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