Last week, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is preparing to reopen some domestic offices to the public for non-emergency services beginning June 4th. USCIS will follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protect both the public and USCIS workers.
USCIS Preparing to Reopen to the Public on June 4th
Since March 18, 2020, USCIS has been closed to the public. Interviews that were scheduled for March 18 – June 3, 2020 were cancelled and applicants were notified that their interviews would be rescheduled if required. During this time period, USCIS approved some cases without interview, but most cases appear to have been held for rescheduling of interview. Naturalization oath ceremonies were cancelled and applicants who had been approved for naturalization were notified that their oath ceremonies would be rescheduled. USCIS continued to process applications to the extent that it could do so without face-to-face interaction with the public.
Now that USCIS has announced its plan to reopen, many people who were scheduled for interviews that were cancelled are anticipating rescheduled interview notices. if operations will be conducted as they were before the Covid-19 pandemic, with large groups gathering at local field offices awaiting interviews or Infopass appointments.
Here are some questions you may have and the answers we’ve received from USCIS so far:
Will the number of appointments and interviews be the same as before?
No. To maintain social distancing, allow time for cleaning, and reduce waiting room occupancy, the number of appointments and interviews will be reduced compared to previous levels.
Do I have to take any precautions if I have an appointment at a USCIS office?
Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow.
Will USCIS have the same operating hours as before?
Possibly. The status of any particular office could change at any time, so it is recommended that you check the USCIS Office Closings and Field Office pages for up to date information about office closures or changed hours. USCIS has requested that all applicants check these pages on the day and before visiting a USCIS office for a scheduled appointment.
Are there any changes to the way naturalization ceremonies will be conducted?
Yes. The ceremonies may be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance. Instead of videos being played during the naturalization ceremonies, attendees will receive a link directing them to the videos on the USCIS website and a flyer with information. With the shortened format, all legally required portions will take place. Those attending the ceremonies will be limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals proving assistance to disabled persons.
Should I still attend my scheduled appointment if I am not feeling well?
No. USCIS requests that any applicant that is not feeling well not attend a scheduled appointment.
How do I reschedule my appointment if I am not feeling well?
Applicants should follow the instructions on the appointment notice to reschedule their appointment. There is no penalty for rescheduling the appointment due to illness.
Are there any restrictions on who can enter USCIS offices?
Yes. Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member and one individual providing disability accommodations if applicable.
What if I need an interpreter, are they allowed to come with me to the USCIS appointment?
No. All applicants should arrange to have their interpreter available by phone.
Are there safety guidelines that I must follow when entering USCIS facilities?
Yes. All people attending ceremonies, interviews or other scheduled appointments should follow the guidelines below.
- Visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they:
- Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
- Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the las 14 days; or
- Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
- Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
- Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points.
- Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering the facilities. Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph. There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.
- Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.
Is there anything else I should do if I have an interview or appointment at USCIS?
We recommend that you speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your case. We recommend this even if you did not have an attorney involved in preparing it and even if you haven’t experienced any issues with your case up to this point. Even if you prepare for the health risks of going to the USCIS office during the Covid-19 pandemic, your appointment or interview is an opportunity for a USCIS officer to ask you questions about your case and consider facts that may not have been reviewed before.
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If you’re ready to talk to an experienced immigration attorney about your case, contact our office to schedule a consultation: