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What to do if you need an immigration service during the closing of USCIS offices

On March 18, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily suspended the provision of all services for immigrants requiring a personal presence in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, recalls Miami Herald.

Photo: Shutterstock

Closing offices affects tens of thousands of people waiting for immigration services, such as renewing their status or work permits, obtaining a green card and US citizenship through naturalization, including those who are scheduled for interviews, biometrics, and naturalization ceremonies.

The paralysis of immigration procedures has raised concerns among people with open processes - asylum seekers, permanent residents with green cards pending US citizenship and others awaiting immigration court cases.

Thousands of foreigners with tourist visas whose authorized stay in the United States expire and are unable to return to their countries due to a pandemic are also worried, so they must apply for an extension of their non-immigrant status.

At the same time, many foreign students suddenly find themselves in a financial need situation and want to get a work permit.

Immigration Advocate Adriana Kostencki, partner at Nelles Kostencki, PLLC, answered some of the most common immigration services questions during the coronavirus pandemic.

On the subject: USCIS Extends Office Closing Term for Third Time Due to Coronavirus: New Date

Many people awaiting immigration paperwork are experiencing severe stress due to the closure of USCIS offices. What is happening now?

Immigration and USCIS staff continue to perform non-public duties. Cases are still pending, and cases that require an interview will obviously be delayed, as USCIS temporarily closed offices.

However, USCIS continues to work, and we have received notifications of approval of decisions regarding cases where people either have already passed the interview, or it is not required, or they need a meeting to take fingerprints and so on. Thus, employees continue to work, albeit in a more limited composition.

Many people with a tourist visa whose US residence permits expire cannot return to their countries due to a pandemic and travel bans. What can they do?

When applying for an extension or change of status in a special situation that interferes with your timely departure, the authorities will consider how this situation affected the departure. It is imperative to apply for an extension or change of status before the current status expires. If you do not apply for an extension of status before the expiration of the permitted period of stay, which is indicated on your I-94, USCIS may justify a delay if it occurred due to external circumstances beyond your control.

You need to file Form I-539 with USCIS with all supporting evidence showing why you cannot leave the United States on time.

On the subject: What to do if you need to submit biometric data for a visa, but USCIS centers are closed

Many people await asylum interviews or have problems with asylum cases. What should they do?

At the moment, it is best to stay at home. USCIS Asylum Staff will send you a cancellation notice and reschedule it automatically. You will receive a new notification of the interview with a new time, date and venue. If you have not received a response within the next 90 days, I recommend that you contact your asylum office by email, regular mail, or phone. You can also view the status of your case at www.uscis.gov/casestatus.

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