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COVID-19 Update: USCIS Suspension of In-Person Services and Services Available Only in Emergency Situations

  According to the USCIS, as of March 18, 2020, USCIS has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1, 2020, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19. However, the USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. As per the USCIS announcement, USCIS domestic field offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments or naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure. The affected interview appointments or naturalization ceremonies will automatically be rescheduled once normal operations resume, which, as of now, is unclear when.

  The individuals who had InfoPass appointments with a field office must reschedule through the USCIS contact center. USCIS has also suspended all biometric appointments. Once normal operations are resumed, USCIS will automatically reschedule the application support center appointments and the asylum appointments due to the office closure. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location of the interview. If one does not receive their new appointment notice by mail within 90 days, call 800-375-5283. As of now, USCIS is unable to reschedule appointments for Canadian, United Kingdom and Mexico visa applicants automatically.

  In addition, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. USCIS in special situations such as natural catastrophes and other extreme situations that can sometimes affect the processing of the application, petition, or immigration request. USCIS has the discretion to take the following measures on a case-by-case basis upon request, if one has been affected by a natural catastrophe or other extreme situation, please note the extraordinary circumstances or the extreme situation should directly relate to the current situation of your city, effect of lock down and shelter in place on your employment and movement. Therefore, this relief offered by USCIS is not a generic one and will depend on your current situation and will vary from case by case basis.

I.                  Extensions and Changes of Status

When applying for an extension or change of status due to a special situation that prevented your planned and timely departure, USCIS may take into consideration how the special situation prevented your departure. If you do not apply for the extension or change of status before your authorized period of admission expires, USCIS may excuse the delay if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control.

II.                  Fee Waiver

If the petitioner or the applicant is unable to pay the fee for a USCIS service or benefit, one may request a fee waiver for certain forms by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.

III.                  Employment Authorization

Severe Economic Hardship to F-1 Students Caused by Unforeseen Circumstances

If a F-1 student experiences severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, they may request employment authorization to work off-campus (if they meet certain regulatory requirements). See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9). Examples of unforeseen circumstances include (but are not limited to): Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment (through no fault of your own); Substantial fluctuations in currency value or exchange rate; Inordinate increases in tuition or living costs; Unexpected changes in the financial condition of your source of support; Medical bills; and Other substantial and unexpected expenses.

To apply, one must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with a copy of the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and any other supporting materials to USCIS.

The Form I-20 must include the employment page completed by your Designated School Official, certifying your eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

If the request is approved, one may be able to work off-campus in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of your current course of study. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii).

IV.                  Special Student Relief

Special Student Relief is the suspension of certain regulatory requirements by the secretary of Homeland Security for F‑1 students from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances. Examples of emergent circumstances include natural catastrophe, war and military conflicts, and national or international financial crises. One may be eligible to apply for off-campus employment authorization if you: Are the citizen of a country specified in a Federal Register notice; Have been lawfully present in the United States for the period indicated in the Federal Register notice; Have reported on time to your Designated School Official and been enrolled in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school since the special situation; Are currently maintaining F-1 status; and Experiencing severe economic hardship.

To apply, one must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with a copy of the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and any other supporting materials to USCIS.

V.                  Employers

All requirements for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, completion and E- Verify remain in place. E-Verify remains available to employers affected by special situations, both directly through the E-Verify web portal and E-Verify employer agents. If one has any questions or issues about using E-Verify from a remote location, please contact E-Verify Support at 888-464-4218 (for employers) or 888-897-7781 (for employees).

VI.                  Employees

All Form I-9 requirements remain in place. If your documents were lost, stolen, or damaged, see the list of Form I-9 acceptable documents and receipts for more information on how to complete the Form I-9. One may also visit I-9 Central for more information.

To schedule an emergency appointment, contact the USCIS Contact Center by talking to a representative by dialing 800-375-5283 and for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability: TTY 800-767-1833 and a person from outside the U.S. or a U.S. territory, one can call 212-620-3418.

Please refer to our previous articles on COVID-19. We will regularly update the blog as soon as any new information is available on COVID-19.

 

Previous Articles on COVID-19:

  1. http://www.ahluwalialaw.com/covid-19-treatment-or-preventive-services-not-to-negatively-impact-the-aliens-seeking-extension-of-stay-change-of-status-or-adjustment-of-status/ (Date of Publication: March 16, 2020)

 

Disclaimer

This article aims to provide new information concerning COVID-19 and its effect on the Aliens. This article, under no circumstances, acts as legal or medical advice; therefore, for any further case-specific question, please contact your doctor and attorney or the Ahluwalia Law Offices, P.C. (Team ALO).

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