According to immigration attorney Chicago, as the COVID-19 crisis continues, it is expected that the country’s immigration system will continue to adapt as best as it can in the face of unprecedented circumstances.
Travel and immigration restricted
In January 2020 the federal government implemented a series of travel and immigration restrictions. This led to grounded flights, closed borders, derailing many individuals’ plans of coming to the United States.
Between late January and mid-March we saw a series of presidential proclamations issued that prohibited entry into the United States to travelers from China, Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the 26 European “Schengen Area” countries. These restrictions exempt U.S. citizens (USCs), lawful permanent residents (LPRs), their certain family members, and other limited categories of people.
On March 18 the State Department announced the suspension of routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
On March 20 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced joint initiatives with Mexico and Canada to suspend all “non-essential” travel by land across their respective borders.
On April 22 President Trump signed a “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the United States Labor Market.” This set a 60-day pause on entry by foreign nationals who are outside the United States and don’t possess a valid immigrant visa. However, this proclamation grants many exemptions, including for healthcare professionals and spouses and children of USCs. These severe travel limitations led to foreign nationals within the United States finding themselves unable to leave the country and in need of extensions of their U.S. immigration status.
In-person services limited
The United States immigration services took measures to cut down on public interaction as much as possible. On March 18 USCIS announced that it was cancelling all in-person services at its field offices. This includes green card interviews, naturalization oath ceremonies, and biometrics appointments. However, USCIS’s regional service centers, which adjudicate the majority of immigration benefit filings, have continued to accept and process submissions. As the green card and naturalization cases can’t be approved without an interview at a local field office, the cancelation of these services is creating significant delays.
The departments and agencies that deal with immigration have made policy changes acknowledging the logistical difficulties faced by employers and employees, while facilitating the necessary compliance actions that must be undertaken. Here are some of them:
- USCIS is accepting filings with photocopied signature pages. They have also extended deadlines for responding to requests for evidence and submitting appeals following denials, and have waived biometrics capture requirements in some cases.
- The Department of Homeland Security temporarily allowed for remote verification of I-9 document.
It is clear that the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought monumental changes affecting every aspect of our lives, including businesses like home services, travel agencies, web design company etc. Our immigration system is no exception, as the pandemic has forced federal departments and agencies to make significant adjustments. This article talked about some of the most notable immigration-related developments in response to the pandemic.