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The Effects of COVID19 on United States Immigration Cases
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Emmanuel Olawale, Esq.
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The Corona virus pandemic has affected United States immigration in several
ways and it has led to adjustments in immigration filing process and
adjudication. The pandemic has caused travel restrictions to and from the
United States and invariably caused travelers to get stranded within the
United States and some U.S. citizens to get stranded abroad.
The president signed an Executive Order with new restrictions on legal
immigration on April 23, 2020. The Executive Order will restrict the
issuance of visas to some people for sixty days while exempting seasonal
foreign agricultural workers, health workers and immediate relative of
United States citizens. The order does not affect the status of immigrants
already in the United States and does not affect those with pending cases.
As it is, almost all immigration flow into the United States has been
suspended as a result of the pandemic since most U.S. embassies and
consulates have stopped issuing visas.
The restrictions in the new Executive Order were meant to curb the spread
of COVID19 and to protect American workers from foreign competition,
according to the president’s tweet. These reasons sound hollow and
pretextual considering the fact that the United States have the most
confirmed cases of COVID19 and the highest COVID19 recorded deaths in the
world, and more than 28 million documented American residents have filed
for unemployment benefits within the last four weeks.
The Executive Order is another medicine in search of non-existent ailments.
It is nothing but a clarion call to the president’s political base in an
election year and a political diversion from the administration’s
snail-pace response to the pandemic. Immigration restrictions and
immigrants have become the fodder for the administration whenever it needs
to divert attention or exert its political muscles.
Prior to the new restrictions, United States Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) offices have closed all field offices until June 4, 2020.
This is subject to extension depending on the pandemic and the safety
guidelines. All interviews and biometrics appointments have been canceled
and applicants will receive new appointment notices when the offices
However, the USCIS is still accepting new applications. Applicants can file
some applications online at <a href=”http://www.uscis.gov/”>www.USCIS.GOV</a> or send their
applications by mail to the appropriate service centers.
USCIS is also still processing applications and petitions that do not
require interviews. For instance, they are still approving applications and
petitions of applicants who have met their burden of proof, even without
interviews. It is also approving the applications of those who have
completed their interviews before the closure and have submitted all
evidence to establish their cases.
Additionally, the USCIS is still denying applications of those who have not
established their cases and still issuing Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID)
and Requests For Evidence (RFE). However, applicants and petitioners have
60 days to respond to NOIDs and RFEs dated between March 1 2020 and May 1,
2020, instead of the regular 30 days.
In spite of the closure, applicants can still file Motions for
Reconsideration and Motions to Re-open with the USICIS. They can also file
appeals with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
In order to accommodate applicants who are working remotely with their
attorneys, USCIS is accepting reproduced or copied signatures. However,
applicants should keep the original signed documents and be ready to
produce them when requested.
For those seeking to naturalize and who have completed their interviews and
have been approved for naturalization, they will have to wait until the
field offices and federal district courts are fully reopened to become U.S.
citizens because USCIS has suspended all naturalization ceremonies.
Most immigration courts are opened for limited cases. To check whether the
immigration court in your jurisdiction is completely closed or open for
limited cases, visit
For courts that are open for limited cases, they are only conducting
hearings for people in immigration detention. All hearings scheduled for
April through May 15, 2020 for people who are not in detention have been
Nevertheless, the immigration courts are still open for filings. Motions
and pleadings can be filed by mail, email, at the clerks’ office or online
Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has suspended the apprehension of
undocumented immigrants to protect ICE officers from contracting the virus.
Foreign visitors or visa holders who are currently stranded in the United
States as a result of the pandemic can apply for Extension of Status or
Change of Status. USCIS will consider COVID19 as extraordinary
circumstances that caused the overstay or late filing of the application if
the applicant filed after their authorized stay has expired.
Finally, the U.S. Department of State has stopped processing new U.S.
passports or passport renewals except for emergency situations that could
be described as one involving “life and death.”
As we continue to deal with the pandemic, it is important to recognize that
there are many immigrant doctors, nurses, health workers and other
essential workers on the front lines every day saving lives and fighting
aggressively to protect us from COVID19 in spite of the administration’s
hardline immigration policy.
About The Author<br/>
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<b>Emmanuel Olawale, Esq.</b> is the owner of The Olawale Law Firm and the author of “The Flavor of Favor: Quest for the American Dream. A Memoir,” and “Starting & Growing a Law Practice without Breaking the Bank.” He can be reached at 614-772-4177 or send email to <a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com</a>
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