Quick Takeaways:

  • Though its Field Offices have cancelled most face-to-face interactions with the public, USCIS Service Centers remain open and operational
  • Forms may be submitted with photocopies of original signatures for submissions dated March 21 and beyond
  • Effective today, March 20, 2020, USCIS will stop accepting new requests for Premium Processing due to COVID-19
  • USCIS will continue to adjudicate pending Petitions with Premium Processing, and will continue to accept and adjudicate new filings using Regular Processing

Amidst the upheaval to the U.S. immigration system wrought by COVID-19, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) centers will continue to accept and adjudicate petitions and applications for benefits. As such, and even though local Field Offices have cancelled “routine in-person services” such as green card and asylum interviews, biometrics appointments, and naturalization ceremonies, the national service centers remain operational. Therefore, as of today, all expiration dates remain effective and extensions or renewals must arrive in compliance with applicable regulations to be considered timely-filed.

Though still open, today USCIS made two announcements that will alter all filings moving forward. First, the Service has suspended Premium Processing for all I-129 and I-140 Petitions effective immediately, meaning individuals and employers will no longer have access to a decision within 15 days of filing. USCIS confirmed it will continue to process Premium requests that were already filed, but will reject any such requests dated on or after March 20, 2020. Until such time that the service has resumed, all filings will be adjudicated on a normal basis. In “expand[ing] upon and supersed[ing] the previous announcement” suspending H-1B Cap Petitions, it is unclear whether the staggered approach outlined in that announcement will remain intact. With USCIS facing diminished capacity due to COVID-19, published processing times are likely to grow. Importantly,Expedited Processing will remain available in appropriate circumstances.

USCIS also announced that it will no longer require original, wet signatures for all filings, and that it will accept Petitions and Applications with photocopies of original signatures. In so doing, USCIS confirmed that it will not accept e-signatures, and instructed filers to retain the original, signed documents in the event USCIS wishes to review them.

While accepting photocopies of signature pages is a welcome concession during these difficult times, suspending Premium Processing for all I-129 and I-140 Petitions represents a significant disruption that may leave nonimmigrant workers in an even more delicate situation. If you have any questions about these changes may impact your case, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Author

  • Josh Rolf is a Senior Associate Attorney in the Firm’s Philadelphia office. Josh focuses his practice on various types of immigrant and nonimmigrant matters, including investor-based petitions.

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