U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that they are preparing to reopen some domestic offices on or soon after June 4. As part of the reopening USCIS will resume non-emergency public services such as asylum interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and other visa-related interviews and appointments. In order to ensure the safety of federal employees as well as applicants and their attorneys, USCIS plans to reduce the number of appointments and interviews held on a daily basis and to conduct frequent cleaning of their office sites. USCIS also encourages individuals who feel unwell/sick to reschedule appointments with no penalty. Below please find additional information pertaining to how specific services will be conducted as USCIS begins their reopening, and on the safety guidelines that all visitors will be required to follow:
Application Support Centers (ASC)
Any necessary ASC appointments that were cancelled will be rescheduled automatically. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail listing the date and time of their new appointment. USCIS advises that individuals who appear at a time other than that listed on their notice will encounter significant processing delays.
Interviews and Appointments
USICS will send notices to applicants and petitioners who had previously scheduled appointments and interviews. Only the applicant, one representative, one family member, and one individual providing disability accommodations are allowed to attend an interview or appointment. USCIS instructs applicants to arrange for interpreters to be available over the telephone.
USCIS will send notices to applicants instructing them to reschedule postponed naturalization ceremonies. The ceremonies themselves will be shortened: instead of playing instructional videos, USCIS will hand out flyers containing the relevant information and links to view the usual videos on the USCIS website. Attendance is also limited to just the naturalization candidate and an assistant for disabled candidates. No other individuals will be permitted to attend.
Asylum interviews that were cancelled during the closure of USCIS offices will be rescheduled automatically. Applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location of their interview once it has been rescheduled.
To help ensure the safety of everyone involved, the interviews will be conducted with the applicants in one room and the interviewing officer in another. USCIS will provide the devices that will allow everyone to communicate over video from the different rooms, and says that they will ensure that applicants, interpreters, and representatives will all be able to participate fully in the interview while maintaining their distance.
Applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents, and an interpreter if they do not speak English. Representatives, witnesses, and “trusted adults” may attend the interview as well. For non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, individuals must bring the family members listed on their interview notice. Representatives may attend fear interviews, but USCIS encourages them to participate over the phone. USCIS will provide professional interpreters for these interviews.
Lepore Taylor Fox will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further updates as USCIS slowly resumes its public-facing operations. We encourage both current and prospective clients alike to contact us regarding any questions or concerns they may have about the reopening of USCIS’s offices and the new safety guidelines that have been put in place.