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By: Sasha Begum

COVID-19’s Impact on Immigration in the U.S.

COVID-19 has caused much turmoil and confusion for many individuals who previously had pending appointments at U.S. Consulates abroad, in the U.S. with USCIS, or who may be facing an expiration of their current status in the U.S.

President Trump, in cooperation with the Presidents of Canada and Mexico, has closed the border to all “non-essential” travel. Therefore, any individual outside the United States wishing to enter on a tourist visa will not be allowed to enter the United States and will be turned away at the border. However, the United States is allowing the entry of essential workers, commercial trucking traffic in order to keep the flow of goods, legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. It is unclear how long the border will be closed. This will undoubtedly cause a blow to the U.S. economy due to the loss of revenue from tourism, medical tourism and other sectors of the economy.

Additionally, U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad have ceased to provide services to non-U.S. citizens.  Non-immigrant visa services and appointments have been cancelled, and no new appointments can be scheduled. Anyone who may have paid a visa fee will not lose the fee so long as the visa appointment is rescheduled within a year from payment of the fee. In the event the shutdown extends for a prolonged period, it is likely the Department of State will revisit the issue of fee payment.

All USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) offices have closed to the public. Any appointment for biometrics or interview scheduled on or after March 18, 2020 has been cancelled and will be automatically rescheduled by USCIS. According to the USCIS website, the agency intends to reopen on April 7, 2020, but this is subject to change depending on the status of the pandemic.  USCIS is still accepting and processing applications, however, no in-person interviews or appointments are being conducted.  Additionally, USCIS has suspended premium processing of all I-129 and I-140 applications. Applications may be filed, but premium processing cannot be utilized.

If you are present in the United States and your status will expire in the near future and during this pandemic period, you may be eligible to file an extension of your current status prior to its expiration. It is important to evaluate options for an extension or change of status in order to not accrue unlawful presence, and potentially face future bars from reentry.  Additionally, if you are present having entered from a visa waiver country, you may be eligible to request a “Satisfactory Departure,” from CBP in order to extend your stay up to 30 days.

If you have any questions related to your immigration status in the United States during the difficult and tumultuous time, do not hesitate to contact our offices at 210-780-6022.

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