The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is preparing to reopen some of its domestic offices for the resumption of public services on or after June 4th. This announcement to resume came after more than two months of temporary closures and has been seen as a major relief for applicants waiting to use various immigration services including visa renewal, work permits, and green card applications.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USCIS temporarily suspended non-emergency in-person services at its asylum offices, field offices, and application support centers (ASCs) on March 18th.
However, while the services have begun to reopen, the USCIS has put safety precautions in place. The number of interviews and appointments will be reduced to allow for social distancing, reduce waiting room occupancy, and allow time for cleaning. If you have an appointment or interview at any of these offices, you will receive safety instructions to follow in your appointment notice.
The USCIS asks that those who are feeling sick not come for appointments. If you are feeling sick, you can simply reschedule your appointment for a time when you are healthy. Instructions on how to reschedule your appointments if you are sick will also be communicated in the appointment notice. The agency noted that there will be no penalty for those who reschedule their appointments due to sickness.
Citizenship and Immigration Services Lined Up for Reopening
As expected, priority will be given to those appointments that were canceled during the temporary closure. The USCIS will reschedule those appointments and interviews and notify applicants and petitioners of the new time, date, and venue.
To ensure social distancing, asylum offices are to conduct video-facilitated interviews, where applicants will sit in one room and the interviewing officer will be in another room. The interviews will be aided with technology such as mobile devices to ensure all stakeholders, including the officer, applicant, representative, and interpreter safely and fully participate in the interview while also maintaining social distancing.
Applicants will also receive notice to schedule their naturalization ceremonies. As part of safety precautions, the ceremonies may be shorter. Instead of the usual method of playing videos during naturalization, the USCIS will only send a flyer to the attendees which will contain information and links to those videos on the USCIS website.
All the legal requirements of the naturalization ceremony will be observed within a short time format. Additionally, only naturalization candidates and people providing assistance to disabled persons will be allowed to attend.
Interviews and Appointments
Applicants and petitioners with previously scheduled interviews and appointments will receive notices from the USCIS, indicating the guidelines for their new appointments. Once field offices are open to the public, you can do your appointment rescheduling via the USCIS contact center.
Before calling the contact center, you will have to first confirm if your respective office has been opened by checking this USCIS office closure page. Only the applicant, one family member, one representative, and one individual providing disability assistance will be allowed at appointment and interview centers. Those who need an interpreter must arrange to have their interpreter available through phone.
Application Support Centers (ASC)
All canceled ASC appointments during the closure will be automatically rescheduled by the USCIS. Details of the newly scheduled appointments will be communicated to the applicants. It is best to follow those guidelines to avoid processing delays and other hiccups.
Guidelines for Entering USCIS Offices
- You may not be allowed to enter a USCIS facility if:
- You have any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing;
- A health care provider has instructed you to self-isolate or self-quarantine within the last 14 days; or
- You have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed to have had COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
- You may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes before your visa appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
- You must wear a face covering that shields both your mouth and nose when entering any USCIS facilities.
- You may be asked to briefly take off your face covering to confirm your identity or take a photograph.
- Markings and physical barriers in these facilities must be followed to ensure social distancing.
- There will be hand sanitizer at entry points.
- You are encouraged to come with your own black or blue pens.