US Government Agencies on Visa Issues During Coronavirus Covid-19 Times

Rajiv S. Khanna

HOST, Immigration.Com
Staff member
20 March 2020
USCIS Announces Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures During COVID-19 National Emergency

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 National Emergency announced by President Trump on March 13, 2020, they will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures (meaning copies), including the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.

USCIS already accepts various petitions, applications and other documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature. This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified. For forms that require an original “wet” signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.

Individuals or entities that submit documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature must also retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature. USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents, which if not produced, could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.




14 March 2020
  • So far, the USCIS is only advising people to reschedule their appointments, if feeling ill.
    They say -
    ALERT: Rescheduling Appointments Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
    If you become ill for any reason, regardless of whether you were exposed to COVID-19, please do not come to appointments with any USCIS office.
    Please follow the instructions on your appointment notice to reschedule your appointment or interview if you:

    Have traveled internationally to any country outside the U.S. within 14 days of your appointment;
    Believe that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 (even if you have not traveled internationally); or
    Are experiencing flu-like symptoms (such as a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat or fever).


  • Visit this page for the USCIS office closings.
    https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-office-closings

  • USCIS says taking government assistance is permissible for Coronovirus/Covid situations:
Alert: USCIS encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus Disease
2019 (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive
services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future
Public Charge analysis.


The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule is critical to defending and protecting
Americans’ health and its health care resources. The Public Charge rule does not restrict access to
testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. In addition, the rule
does not restrict access to vaccines for children or adults to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases.
Importantly, for purposes of a public charge inadmissibility determination, USCIS considers the
receipt of public benefits as only one consideration among a number of factors and considerations in
the totality of the alien’s circumstances over a period of time with no single factor being outcome
determinative. To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to
seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services, USCIS will neither consider testing,
treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID19
as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit
condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if
such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g.
federally funded Medicaid).

The rule requires USCIS to consider the receipt of certain cash and non-cash public benefits, including
those that may be used to obtain testing or treatment for COVID-19 in a public charge inadmissibility
determination, and for purposes of a public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants
seeking an extension of stay or change of status. The list of public benefits considered for this purpose
includes most forms of federally funded Medicaid (for those over 21), but does not include CHIP, or
State, local, or tribal public health care services/assistance that are not funded by federal Medicaid. In
addition, if an alien subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility lives and works in a
jurisdiction where disease prevention methods such as social distancing or quarantine are in place, or
where the alien’s employer, school, or university voluntarily shuts down operations to prevent the
spread of COVID-19, the alien may submit a statement with his or her application for adjustment of
status to explain how such methods or policies have affected the alien as relevant to the factors USCIS
must consider in a public charge inadmissibility determination. For example, if the alien is prevented
from working or attending school, and must rely on public benefits for the duration of the COVID-19
outbreak and recovery phase, the alien can provide an explanation and relevant supporting
documentation. To the extent relevant and credible, USCIS will take all such evidence into
consideration in the totality of the alien’s circumstances.

State Department - Visas:
14 March 2020


CBP - Entering the USA:
14 March 2020
DHS is enforcing the presidential proclamations at and between air, land, and sea ports of entry, alerting the Department’s CDC partners to any individuals who require enhanced health screening.

Since February 2, CBP has refused entry to more than 200 foreign nationals at southern and northern land ports of entry under the presidential proclamations. Since January 1, 2020, the U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended more than 300 Chinese nationals who attempted to enter the country illegally through the U.S. Southwest border.

Every day, 150-200 total CBPOs assist with the screening efforts at the 11 funneling locations. Between the Ports of Entry, BPAs are monitoring all persons in their custody who meet the CDC’s COVID-19 travel history guidelines for additional referral and screening. CWMD has more than 500 trained screeners and employs approximately 95 screeners per day across the 11 airports. Between February 3 and February 8, USCG medical teams screened a total of 707 people at three airports (Detroit, Dallas-Ft Worth and Seattle). USCG rushed medical personnel to these three airports filling an immediate gap until they could be replaced by contractors days later. USCG remains responsible for all seaports.

See: https://www.dhs.gov/keeping-threats-out-country
 
Last edited:

Rajiv S. Khanna

HOST, Immigration.Com
Staff member
USCIS:
20 March 2020 USCIS Suspends Premium Processing

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced the immediate and temporary suspension of premium processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Effective today, March 20, 2020, USCIS will not accept any new requests for premium processing. USCIS will process any petition with a previously accepted Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, in accordance with the premium processing service criteria. However, they will not be able to send notices using pre-paid envelopes. We will only send batch-printed notices. Petitioners who have already filed a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, or Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, using the premium processing service and who receive no agency action on their case within the 15-calendar-day period will receive a refund, consistent with 8 CFR 103.7(e). They will notify the public with a confirmed date for resuming premium processing.

USCIS will reject the I-907 and return the $1,440 filing fee for all petitions requesting premium processing that were mailed before March 20 but not yet accepted.

This temporary suspension includes petitions filed for the following categories:

  • I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.
  • I-140: EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3.
This includes new premium processing requests for all H-1B petitions, including H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2021, petitions from previous fiscal years, and all H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap. USCIS previously announced the temporary suspension of premium processing for FY 2021 cap-subject petitions and tentative dates for resumption of premium processing service. This announcement expands upon and supersedes the previous announcement.

For current Form I-129 and I-140 processing times, visit the Check Case Processing Times page and the H-1B page on the USCIS website.
 

Captn

New Member
Hello. I have received I797b approval notice for my TN1 visa last week. Trying to fill I9 form for my employer, I noticed I need an I94 card. I had one before for B1 visa, can I use that or i still have to visit the border ? Any clue if TN1 processing is still possible considering current health restrictions?
 

Rajiv S. Khanna

HOST, Immigration.Com
Staff member
Hello. I have received I797b approval notice for my TN1 visa last week. Trying to fill I9 form for my employer, I noticed I need an I94 card. I had one before for B1 visa, can I use that or i still have to visit the border ? Any clue if TN1 processing is still possible considering current health restrictions?
You cannot use an I94 from a B1 Visa. Contact CBP to see if they can issue an I94 without having to physically cross the border. I am pretty sure they can. Please post your experience here for others. Good luck!
 

Captn

New Member
thanks alot for your response, do you know if the original supporting employer document (Letterhead signed ink to paper) is a must? there is a carbon copy of that document in the I-129 package already
 

Rajiv S. Khanna

HOST, Immigration.Com
Staff member
thanks alot for your response, do you know if the original supporting employer document (Letterhead signed ink to paper) is a must? there is a carbon copy of that document in the I-129 package already
Under the circumstances, a copy should be acceptable. Make sure the employer's representatives are available by phone in case CBP wants to call.
 

arogers

New Member
Hi Rajiv,
I need your advice to follow up on a question I asked you on the last community call (thank you tremendously for offering that service).
I am a Canadian citizen on a TN visa in the US:
- I got laid off 3 weeks ago
- I have a new offer letter from a new employer
How should I proceed (given that Premium processing is not an option for form I-129 anymore)?

Sincerely
 

Rajiv S. Khanna

HOST, Immigration.Com
Staff member
H
Hi Rajiv,
I need your advice to follow up on a question I asked you on the last community call (thank you tremendously for offering that service).
I am a Canadian citizen on a TN visa in the US:
- I got laid off 3 weeks ago
- I have a new offer letter from a new employer
How should I proceed (given that Premium processing is not an option for form I-129 anymore)?

Sincerely
Have your lawyers look at the 60 days grace period. You should be ok to start working upon filing.
 

prbak

New Member
Hi Rajiv,

Trust all is well.
I am on TN visa and planning to switch to a new employer. As premium processing is not an option for I-129 and borders are closed. What are the options.

1) Can i start working with new employer once my new employer files I129(TN visa) ? or we need to wait for I-129 final outcome for TN visa before i start working with new employer ?
(OR)
2) My TN visa expiring(May 2020) and If my new employer applies I-129 for TN change of employer and during the processing time of 3 to 4 months can i stay in US without working ?Is it still consider as legal stay or i can start working with new employer once he files I129 ?

Thanks.
 
Last edited:

Rajiv S. Khanna

HOST, Immigration.Com
Staff member
Hi Rajiv,

Trust all is well.
I am on TN visa and planning to switch to a new employer. As premium processing is not an option for I-129 and borders are closed. What are the options.

1) Can i start working with new employer once my new employer files I129(TN visa) ? or we need to wait for I-129 final outcome for TN visa before i start working with new employer ?
(OR)
2) My TN visa expiring(May 2020) and If my new employer applies I-129 for TN change of employer and during the processing time of 3 to 4 months can i stay in US without working ?Is it still consider as legal stay or i can start working with new employer once he files I129 ?

Thanks.
You have to wait For the approval of the petition. There is no portability for TN. You can try reaching out to the US CIS and request an expedite based upon the unique circumstances these days. You can also check with the US customs and border protection to see if you can just go to the port of entry and without crossing the border and be able to interview for a change in the job.
 

India_1975

New Member
Hi Rajiv, My wife was supposed to travel on CR-1 Visa (approved in Jan) on April 10th and due to covid situation she is struck. Her visa is expiring on on April 26th and wondering what my options are. Would the consulate be able to re-issue a new visa or do I have to start the application process from scratch for a new visa? Appreciate your response. Thank you!
 

Ron_Ald

New Member
Hi Rajiv, I withdrew from the term on Feb 21, 2020 and came to India. With withdrawal my SEVIS was terminated as well, now I plan to return to the same university for fall 2020, I do have an unexpired F1 visa, the DSO has told I would be issued new I-20 and have to pay for new SEVIS. My concern is that whether I’ll have to apply for new visa, since it will be more than 5 months out of US before I can reenter for fall term. Does CBP allow entry on new I-20 and new SEVIS ID with old F1 from same university?. If I have to apply for new F1 again, then do I have to appear for interview again as well?

Can my old SEVIS be reactivated as it is not been 5 months now from the date of exit?

How long would it take to get a new F1 visa, if I choose dropbox option under interview waiver program?
 

spaceprops

New Member
Hi Rajiv,
Thank you for this incredible resource. I'm currently on an F1 OPT (STEM extension) that expires this summer. Does this type of visa qualify for an Extension of Stay (EOS) or Change of Status (COS) filing? I ask because of Trump's tweet last night regarding suspending immigration, as I had planned to switch to a TN visa when my OPT expired (I'm Canadian).
Really at a loss for things to do and I can't seem to find info regarding OPT extensions.
Regards!
 

Vkar5595

New Member
Hi Rajiv, immensely grateful for the incredible support you're providing.
I came to US on B1/2 for a clerkship and got research offer while I was here. Need a J1 Visa for that. With international flights to India discontinued indefinitely, should I apply for a change of status in US or wait to go back and apply with US consulate in India? I've heard Change of status might take 4-6months. Can the process be expedited in certain cases? I need to join by June end.

Thank you!
 
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