USCIS Response to COVID-19
Guidelines for Entering USCIS Facilities
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 last 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 facilities. If they do not have one, USCIS may reschedule their appointment.
- 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 may also have to answer health screening questions before entering a facility.
- Applicants and visitors are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.
More information on visiting USCIS facilities can be found at uscis.gov/visitorpolicy.
Field Office Appointments and Rescheduling
USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with previously scheduled appointments and interviews. Those attending appointments should follow the safety guidelines outlined below.
Those who had other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public. Please check to see if the respective office has been reopened at our office closures page before calling the Contact Center.
Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative and one family member or individual providing disability accommodations.
Application Support Center (ASC) Appointments and Rescheduling
USCIS will resume in-person processing of biometrics at certain Application Support Centers. Please check the USCIS office closings page to see if your ASC has reopened before coming to an appointment.
Individuals who appear at a date or time other than what is listed on the ASC appointment notice may encounter significant processing delays.
Applicants may only be accompanied by an interpreter, attorney, parent/legal guardian of a minor or individual providing assistance to a disabled person.
Rescheduling of Cancelled ASC Appointments
USCIS will automatically reschedule any necessary ASC appointments that were cancelled due to the temporary office closure, or send notifications of biometrics reuse to eligible individuals.
Individuals who must still appear in person at an ASC will receive a new appointment letter in the mail.
Note: USCIS cannot automatically re-schedule appointments for Canadian and United Kingdom visa applicants.
- Canada Visa Applicants: visit the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada website for updated information.
- UK Visa Applicants: visit the UK Visas and Immigration website for updated information.
USCIS asylum offices will automatically reschedule asylum interviews that were cancelled during the temporary closures. When USCIS reschedules the interview, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location for the interview and information about safety precautions.
In accordance with social distancing guidelines, and due to the length of asylum interviews, asylum offices expect to conduct video-facilitated asylum interviews, where the applicants sit in one room and the interviewing officer sits in another room. Asylum offices will use available technology, including mobile devices provided by USCIS, to ensure that the officer, applicant, interpreter and representative can fully and safely participate in the interview while maintaining social distancing.
For affirmative asylum interviews, applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents on the application and an interpreter, if the applicant does not speak English. Additionally, a representative, witness, individual providing disability accommodations or “trusted adult” if an applicant is a minor, may attend the interview.
For non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, individuals must bring any family members listed on the interview notice. Representatives may attend credible and reasonable fear interviews but are encouraged to participate telephonically. USCIS will provide contracted, professional interpreters for credible and reasonable fear interviews.
Those attending appointments should follow the Guidelines for Entering USCIS Facilities as described above.
If you are feeling sick, please do not come to the office. Applicants can follow the instructions on your appointment notice to reschedule your appointment for when you are healthy. There is no penalty for rescheduling your appointment if you are sick.
Naturalization Oath Ceremonies
USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners to reschedule postponed naturalization ceremonies. The ceremonies may be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance. USCIS will not play videos during naturalization ceremonies, but will give attendees a flyer with information and links directing them to the videos on the USCIS website. Under the shortened format, all legally required portions of the ceremony will take place. Attendance is limited to the candidates who are scheduled to be naturalized, a parent or trusted adult if the candidate is a minor and individuals providing disability assistance to a candidate.
Deadlines for Certain Requests, Notices, and Appeals
USCIS will consider a response received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set forth in the following requests or notices before taking any action if such request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1 and July 1, 2020, inclusive:
- Request for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notice of Intent to Deny;
- Notice of Intent to Revoke;
- Notice of Intent to Rescind;
- Notice of Intent to Terminate; and
- Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA)
In addition, USCIS will consider a Notice of Appeal or Motion filed on Form I-290B and a Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings filed on Form N-336 if filed 60 calendar days from the issuance of a decision by USCIS, if such decision is was issued between March 1 and July 1, 2020, inclusive. See our alert for more information.
H-2A Requirements During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
On April 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS published a temporary final rule to amend certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in lawful agricultural-related employment, protect the nation’s food supply chain and lessen impacts from the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Due to travel restrictions and visa processing limitations as a result of actions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as the possibility that some H-2A workers may become unavailable due to COVID-19 related illness, U.S. employers who have approved H-2A petitions or who will be filing H-2A petitions might not receive all of the workers requested to fill the temporary positions, and similarly, employers that currently employ H-2A workers may lose the services of workers due to COVID-19 related illness.
Under this temporary final rule, all H-2A petitioners with a valid temporary labor certification (TLC) can now start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in the United States and in valid H-2A status immediately after USCIS receives the H-2A petition, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition.
Additionally, USCIS is temporarily amending its regulations to allow H-2A workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. These temporary changes will encourage and facilitate the lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agriculture workers during the COVID-19 national emergency.
The temporary final rule was effective on April 20, 2020. If the new petition is approved, the H-2A worker will be able to stay in the United States for a period of time not to exceed the validity period of the Temporary Labor Certification. DHS will issue a new temporary final rule in the Federal Register to amend the termination date in the event DHS determines that circumstances demonstrate a continued need for the temporary changes to the H-2A regulations.
It is important to note to the public that this temporary final rule does not amend the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) regulations covering the labor market test and recruitment of U.S. workers for the H-2A process. Before filing an H-2A petition with DHS, the H-2A petitioner must have obtained a valid TLC from DOL for the job opportunity the employer seeks to fill with an H-2A worker(s). This final rule is not a joint rule with DOL, and USCIS is not proposing changes to DOL’s H-2A TLC process or its regulations.
H-2B Requirements During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
On May 14, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security published a temporary final rule to change certain H-2B requirements to help secure the U.S. food supply chain and reduce the economic impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on H-2B employers.
Under this temporary final rule, an H-2B petitioner with an approved temporary labor certification can start employing H-2B workers already in the United States for positions essential to the U.S. food supply chain, immediately after USCIS receives the H-2B petition and the new attestation, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition. Additionally, DHS is temporarily amending its regulations to allow certain H-2B workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States.
To take advantage of this time-limited change in regulatory requirements, the H-2B workers must be in the United States and in valid H-2B status on or after March 1, 2020. In addition, the H-2B petitioner will be required to submit, with its petition, a new Form ATT-H2B, Attestation for Employers Seeking to Employ H-2B Nonimmigrant Workers Essential to the U.S. Food Supply Chain (PDF), swearing under penalty of perjury that the H-2B worker(s) will be performing temporary nonagricultural services or labor that are essential to the U.S. food supply chain including, but not limited to:
- Processing, manufacturing and packaging of human and animal food;
- Transporting human and animal food from farms or manufacturing or processing plants to distributors and end sellers; and
- Selling human and animal food through a variety of sellers or retail establishments, including restaurants.
In addition to H-2B petitioners who file their petitions on or after May 14, 2020, the temporary final rule allows certain H-2B employers and U.S. agents, with pending petitions on or after that date, to request the flexibilities provided under the temporary final rule by submitting the new Form ATT-H2B attestation to the appropriate center before USCIS adjudicates their petitions.
The temporary final rule is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. H-2B employers and U.S. agents can request the flexibilities authorized under the temporary final rule through Sept. 11, 2020. DHS will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving circumstances surrounding the public health emergency and may issue a new temporary final rule to extend its applicability in the event DHS determines that economic circumstances demonstrate a continued need for these temporary changes to the regulatory requirements involving H–2B nonagricultural employers and workers essential to the nation’s food supply chain.
Temporary Policy Changes for Certain Foreign Medical Graduates During the COVID-19 National Emergency
During, and in response to, the COVID-19 public health emergency, USCIS continues to take action to protect U.S. workers while also providing resources needed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
USCIS is providing guidance (PDF, 341 KB) to officers in relation to former J-1 foreign medical graduate physicians who have received a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement under section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
These foreign medical graduates are former J-1 exchange visitors who currently practice medicine in the United States as H-1B nonimmigrant physicians based on interest from a government agency, or through the Conrad State 30 program created by Congress.
USCIS is providing flexibilities for these foreign medical graduates who are assisting in the fight against COVID-19—saving lives, reducing the strain on over-worked hospital workers, and improving access to necessary medical care. These flexibilities include:
- Telehealth. USCIS will allow these physicians to deliver telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency, provided the physicians continue to serve their intended population. USCIS notes that if an employer offers these foreign medical graduates the flexibility to telework from their home, it must offer those same flexibilities to its U.S. workers similarly employed.
- Waiver of Certain Immigration Consequences of Failing to Meet the Full-Time Work Requirement. USCIS will not consider these physicians to have violated their contracts with their employers if they are temporarily unable to work full-time due to illness, reduced hours at healthcare facilities, or other impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a limited flexibility and only relates to the foreign medical graduate’s eligibility for future immigration benefits that would be affected by the re-imposition of the two-year home residence requirement as the result of a contract violation. It does not otherwise affect a petitioning employer’s responsibilities under the statutes and regulations relating to H-1B nonimmigrants.
Extension of Stay/Change of Status Filing Delays Caused by Extraordinary Circumstances Related to COVID-19
Generally, nonimmigrants must depart the United States before their authorized period of admission expires. However, we recognize that nonimmigrants may unexpectedly remain in the United States beyond their authorized period of stay should apply for an extension or change of status in advance. Should this occur, the following options are available to nonimmigrants:
Apply for an Extension. Most nonimmigrants can mitigate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by timely filing an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS). USCIS continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing.
If You File in a Timely Manner. Nonimmigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while the timely-filed, non-frivolous EOS/COS application is pending. Where applicable, employment authorization with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time.
Flexibility for Late Applications. USCIS may excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to timely file an extension/change of status request if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances. Under current regulations and as noted on our Special Situations page, if a petitioner or applicant files an extension of stay or change of status request (on Forms I-129 or I-539) after the authorized period of admission expires, USCIS may excuse the failure to timely file if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, such as those that may be caused by COVID-19. The length of delay must be commensurate with the circumstances. The petitioner or applicant must submit credible evidence to support their request, which USCIS will evaluate in its discretion on a case-by-case basis. These special situations have been used at various times in the past, including for natural disasters and similar crises.
Flexibility for Visa Waiver Entrants. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) entrants are generally not eligible to extend their stay or change status. However, under current regulations, if an emergency (such as COVID-19) prevents the departure of a VWP entrant, USCIS in its discretion may grant up to 30 days to allow for satisfactory departure. Please see 8 CFR 217.3(a). For those VWP entrants already granted satisfactory departure and unable to depart within this 30-day period because of COVID-19 related issues, USCIS has the authority to temporarily provide additional 30-day periods of satisfactory departure. To request satisfactory departure from USCIS, a VWP entrant should call the USCIS Contact Center.
For More Information. Please see 8 CFR 214.1(c)(4) and 8 CFR 248.1(c) for additional information on late requests to extend or change status. In addition, please see our Form I-129 and Form I-539 pages for specific filing and eligibility requirements for extensions and changes of status.
- Learn about measures to assist you in extreme situations on our Special Situations page.