How the Coronavirus Will Affect US Immigration

By Casey April 24, 2020 8 min. read

Note: This page is constantly being updated. Please visit regularly for the most recent information.

Read about VisaPlace’s statement on operating during the Coronavirus pandemic.

*April 24 Update: USCIS is readying offices to reopen on or after June 4. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public while the offices are closed.

While offices are temporarily closed, USCIS will continue to provide limited emergency in-person services.

*April 22 Update: This order is only affecting a small group of people. Learn about which programs are temporarily suspended for 60 days and which are not!

*April 20 Update: President Trump’s recent tweet made late on April 20th states he intends to “temporarily suspend immigration to the USA”, prompting concerns from many people intending to immigrate or already in the process of immigrating to the US. While there are valid reasons to be worried, we at VisaPlace believe there is no need for such concern just yet. There are some bottom line facts that everyone should know.

*April 17 Update: An agreement has been reached between the United States and Canada to extend the border closure for non-essential travel by another 30 days. The border is still open to essential travel and some others mentioned in the updates below. However, this agreement still needs some final approvals before becoming official. If you need to cross Canada’s border, please contact us, we may be able to help!

*April 1 Update: FY 2021 H-1B Cap Petitions May Be Filed as of April 1
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year (FY) 2021, including those petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may now be filed with USCIS if based on a valid selected registration.

*April 1 Update: USCIS Temporary Office Closure Extended until at least May 3. On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS offices will begin to reopen on May 4 unless the public closures are extended further.

*March 30 Update: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will reuse previously submitted biometrics in order to process valid Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, extension requests due to the temporary closure of Application Support Centers (ASC) to the public in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Applicants who had an appointment scheduled with an ASC on or after the March 18 closure or has filed an I-765 extension will have their application processed using previously submitted biometrics.  This will remain in effect until ASCs are open for appointments to the public.

USCIS also announced that it adopted measures to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID). This alert clarifies that this flexibility also applies to certain Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) and Notices of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) regional investment centers, as well as certain filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

*March 27 Update: USCIS has received enough electronic registrations during the initial period to reach the FY 2021 H-1B numerical allocations (H-1B cap).

*March 25 Update: USCIS announces the plan to re-open offices on April 7, unless public closures extend further. USCIS domestic field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by this temporary closure. USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews.

*March 20, 2020 Update: The US and Mexico announced they’re limiting nonessential travel across their shared border to curb movement during the pandemic. Exceptions include traveling for medical purposes or work, or to attend school, among others, according to a regulation notice set to be published March 24. The US also took the step of barring entry to migrants illegally crossing the southern border.

*March 18, 2020 Update: See USCIS office closings at bottom of page.

12:35pm EST: The United States and Canada have agreed to close their 5,500-mile border to “all nonessential travel” as the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

*March 17, 2020 Update:

USCIS has suspended premium processing of CAP subject H1B cases starting April 1, 2020. Here is what this entails:

*March 16, 2020 Update:

Immigration officials rolled out their “public charge” rule last month, stating people who were sick were deemed a concern to the U.S. and their health conditions were counted against them when applying for a green card.

Part of that changed this past Friday, at least when it comes to the Coronavirus, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced. Any immigrant who gets tested or treated for the virus will not be negatively impacted.

“USCIS encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble coronavirus (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services,” the agency said in a statement. “Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future public charge analysis.”**

As the world deals with a public health emergency in the shape of the COVID-19 outbreak, experts worry President Trump’s immigration policies may put everyone at risk.

Struggles to contain the spread of Coronavirus, its immigration policies may well heighten this crisis. The “public charge” rule discourages immigrants from accessing health care. The “Remain in Mexico” policy has created conditions ripe for a viral outbreak along the border.

Earlier in the outbreak, U.S. officials restricted entry from China, where the disease originated and which still has the most Coronavirus cases, but where the infection rate is slowing down.

The United States government has prohibited non-US citizens who are from the 26 countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area or who have visited the Schengen Area in the previous two weeks from entering the United States. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The United States government’s policy goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 13, 2020 but does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 13, 2020. The United States government has stated that they intend for this policy to be in place for the next 30 days.

This Policy Does Not Include or Impact:

While not prohibited from entering the United States, these travelers who have been to the Schengen Area may be required to return to the US through select airports where enhanced screening procedures have been established.

What to Expect at US Airports:

Travelers are likely to come into contact with many high-touch objects such as self check-in kiosks, escalator handrails and tray tables, so airports and airlines are making changes aimed at reducing the potential for what’s called community transmission.

They are working in concert with the C.D.C., the World Health Organization and local public health officials to come up with the best policies and procedures, with changes made as new information comes in.

The C.D.C. has offices and quarantine stations at 20 United States airports. As of March 12, the C.D.C. says that those who have been in Level 3 countries, China, Iran, South Korea and now most of Europe, in the previous two weeks but exhibit no symptoms, need to stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.

Travelers coming in from all other countries are asked to monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning from travel.

Anyone with symptoms should call ahead before seeking medical care.

USCIS Office Closings

Effective March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is suspending in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This suspension of services will be effective until at least April 1. In the meantime, USCIS will provide limited emergency services.

USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure. USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview. When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments due to the office closure. You will receive a new appointment letter in the mail. Individuals who had InfoPass or other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public again. Check to see if your field office has been reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.