The Global lockdown caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 has created a dire situation as Governments scramble to contain the outbreak. Like other countries, The United States too has been greatly impacted by it. Due to which the US government has made sweeping changes in its immigration policies over the past month.
Here are the top 6 changes made by the US government, during this time:
Travel to the US restricted to only Citizens and Residents
As of the first week of March, only U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are outside of the U.S. can return to the United States regardless of the country they’re coming from. For immigrants who are waiting for their visa or do not have a green card, they will not be allowed to enter the United States if they’ve been to one of the listed countries within the last 14 days.
This list includes China, Iran, the UK and Ireland, and the entire Schengen area of Europe.
USCIS closes all its public-facing offices
The USCIS has closed all its services for Green Card interviews, Citizenship interviews including every face to face service that immigrants may require. All biometrics appointments have all been canceled for the near future.
USCIS calls COVID-19 a Special Situation
USCIS has dubbed COVID-19 a special situation equivalent to a natural disaster like a hurricane, a flood, or any other emergency. Hence, allowing immigrants to apply for an extension of their application submission dates in case they are unable to file on time.
Immigrants, however, are asked to take measures to make sure that their visas stay compliant.
Make sure that extensions are being processed in a timely way. If you choose to work from home moving forward, you can get H-1Bs and other types of visas and list the home as a worksite in the future.
Premium Processing has been Canceled Indefinitely
There will be no premium processing for people with H-1Bs in the lottery happening this Spring. There’s an additional temporary suspension of premium processing for all I-129 and I-140 petitions.
Coronavirus Treatment will not affect Future Green Card
There have been reports of immigrants trying to self-treat themselves although they believe they may be infected with COVID-19, because they do not want to lose their chances of getting a Green Card. As the public charge rule indicates that anyone requiring government support will not be eligible to apply for a Green Card.
However, this rule has been exempt for those immigrants requiring coronavirus treatment as it will no longer affect their green card in the future.
If you’re an immigrant and you need some assistance to get through this time, there are a number of things you can take advantage of including workers comp, employment benefits, tax-related cash benefits, emergency medical assistance, and social security benefits. These are not counted towards the public charge rule.
The H-1B lottery is still on
Anyone filing for the H1-B visa is now allowed to print out an application or petition at home. Sign it, scan it, and email it over to your immigration lawyer. Make sure you have the wet ink original in your records in case they’re requesting it. Due to the current situation, it is also okay to use photocopies and scans of wet-ink signatures in your forms.