In our prior post “USCIS Operations and the Corona Virus (COVID-19) – As of the Evening of March 17, 2020” we discussed some of the in-person services USCIS was putting on hold due to Covid-19. At that time, they had hoped to reopen offices by April 1, 2020. That timeline was pushed back considerably, but as of June 4, 2020, they are finally reopening some offices.
What you need to know before you visit
Visitors to the offices must follow certain health requirements, such as:
- You must have an appointment; no walk-ins
- Answer health questions when you arrive
- Wear a face mask and use hand sanitizer
- Not have symptoms of Covid-19
- Arrive no more than 15 minutes before your appointment
- Follow instructions for social distancing and safety
The reopening does not include application support centers at this time. Things change quickly with Coronavirus. Make sure you check the status of your local office on the day of your appointment.
What does this mean for work visas?
Reopening offices may help with processing but does not change the government’s policy approach to issuing work visas. The State Department has put many U.S. immigration programs on hold due to the virus, affecting a variety of visa types. Countries around the world have closed their borders in an attempt to control the spread of the virus, including the U.S. Many people are confused about their status and want to know what they can do. USCIS seems to be making decisions based on individual programs.
For example, foreign medical graduates working on an H1-B visa have some flexibility due to extra demand for health care workers during the pandemic. Other H1-B holders may face difficulties, however, and can only apply for Optional Practical Training programs within the U.S. The employment requirements cause many problems for visa-holders, as well, given the mass lay-offs.
Another example is the H2-A or H2-B visa for migrant workers. A migrant worker already in the U.S. and holding an H2-B visa when the shut-down began could stay to help keep the food supply moving. The State Department has even waived in-person interviews for H2-A visas.
The state department is not automatically extending all work visas for people within the U.S. Many other nonimmigrant visa holders can file for extensions on their work visas, however, as long as they do so in a timely manner.
These policies and guidelines seem to change daily. If you need assistance with navigating the newest rules, seek legal guidance before moving ahead.