USCIS – COVID-19 UPDATE

As I told you in an earlier posting, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) has closed its doors to the general public until at least June 4th.  I expect that date to be extended even further.

 

That means there are no interviews, no oath ceremonies and not much is getting done.

I keep getting calls and emails from clients asking “is this COVID-19 shutdown going to affect my case?”  The simple answer is YES.  You are in a line that is not moving.  It is going to take you longer to get to the front of that line to get the immigration benefit you are entitled to.

Simply put — you need to be patient.
Earlier today, USCIS announced it is giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to some USCIS requests.  Here is the press release issued earlier today by USCIS.

Stay home.  Stay safe.

Thanks,

John Foley
Foley Law Offices, P.C.

—————–USCIS Press Release——————–

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is extending the flexibilities it announced on March 30 to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; and
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

Notice/Request/Decision Issuance Date: 

This flexibility applies to the above documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1 and July 1, 2020, inclusive.

Response Due Date: 

USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action. USCIS will consider a Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action.

USCIS is adopting several measures to protect our workforce and community and to minimize the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time.

USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance. Education and precautions are the strongest tools against COVID-19 infection. Please visit uscis.gov/coronavirus for latest facts and other USCIS updates.

A view from a closed and deadly quiet Boston

https://www.irishecho.com/2020/04/a-view-from-a-closed-and-deadly-quiet-boston/

OLDEST IRISH AMERICAN NEWSPAPER IN USA, ESTABLISHED IN 1928

Attorney John Foley is sheltering in place at home, but still working as best he can from there.

By John Philip Foley

Boston — Like most places, Boston is closed. With the exception of cars delivering take-out food, the streets are deserted. The only activity is at supermarkets and pharmacies where the shoppers are wearing face masks and gloves as they maneuver one way aisles only to find the toilet paper shelves mostly empty.

Buses and trains are operating on a reduced schedule and ridership is down by about 90%. Logan Airport, usually a beehive of activity, is silent.

We are all in front of the television watching dual press conferences between President Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. One is full of false bravado, the other common sense that in time will be deemed wisdom.

We hear President Trump using adjectives like “fantastic, wonderful and perfect” as he encourages Americans to get back to work while a neighbor complains about the lack of basic medical supplies at the nursing home where she works.

And it’s in those nursing homes where the real tragedy is taking place. As in Ireland, the number of nursing home deaths continues to rise, and what makes it even worse is that these people are dying alone.

It’s not so bad being tucked away at home until you hear the morning news and realize another hundred people who live around you died last night and the obituary section in the Boston Globe is now larger than the sports section.

As kids, we joked about our Irish-born grandparents reading the “Irish sports page” and now it’s us looking at those same pages to see if we knew anyone who died.

Some of us are lucky to be able to work from home, but nothing is really getting done.

As an immigration lawyer, I tell clients all interviews and oath ceremonies have been cancelled and will not be re-scheduled anytime soon.

Then President Trump tweets and my phone explodes as clients call, email and text in fear. Trump is using a pandemic as a re-election tool while he is scaring the hell out of innocent people with a presidential order that will not make anyone safer.

As the days merge together and the death toll rises, we seek comfort and happiness from any source. We were delighted to share in the recovery of Belfast lawyer Niall Murphy. The video of Niall giving the thumbs up as he was wheeled out of the ICU filled us with hope.

This virus has also exposed how alike we are as humans. It has exposed that most of our daily squabbles and fights are over issues that don’t really matter. If and when this is over, I envision an Ireland more focused on building a better, safer future than refighting old struggles.

Now go wash your hands!

Foley Law Offices, P.C.
10 Post Office Square
Suite 800 South
Boston, MA 02109
Ph: (617) 850-9018
Cell: (617) 378-8540

USCIS – CLOSED UNTIL JUNE 4TH

As suspected, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) is not going to re-open anytime soon. In the release copied below, USCIS confirms it will be closed at least until June 4th. If the pandemic situation is no better by then, the closing will be extended.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is this going to affect my case?
A: Yes. There will be longer delays. Please be patient.

Q: Is this just USCIS-Boston?
A: No, this closure covers the entire United States. While USCIS Officers are working from home, all offices are closed to the general public. There will be no interviews, no oath ceremonies, no biometric appointments. USCIS is closed.

Q: Is there anything you can do to get my case through the USCIS system?
A: No.

Q: As we wait for our appointment/interview, what should I do?
A: Continue to create and collect evidence to document the bona fides of your case. Continue to take photographs to document your relationship, save pay stubs, save insurance paperwork, save anything with both of your names on it to prove you are a real couple.

Q: What else should I be doing?
A: You should be taking care of yourself and your family. The best way to do that is to stay at home so you don’t catch the virus. Be safe.

Q: If I have specific questions about my situation, can we talk?
A: Yes. Just call my cell phone number or send me an e-mail if you want to FaceTime.

We have been fielding calls having to do with a wide variety of issues. If you have a problem and you don’t know what to do, please let us help you. Call me at (617) 378-8540.

Thanks & Be Well!

John Foley
Foley Law Offices, P.C.
Boston, MA
04/24/2020
3:40 PM

USCIS CLOSED

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS is readying offices to re-open in compliance with local and state orders, on or after June 4. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public while the offices are temporarily closed. During this time, individuals may still submit applications and petitions to USCIS. Online filing remains the most convenient and interactive way to submit forms, check the status of your case, and receive notices.

Field Office and ASC Appointments, Naturalization Ceremonies, InfoPass
USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the extended temporary closure. When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments due to the temporary office closure. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail. Those who had InfoPass or other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public again.

Asylum Office Interviews
USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview.

Please check to see if the respective office has been reopened before calling the USCIS Contact Center.

In-Person Public Engagements
Additionally, USCIS is postponing all in-person public engagement and outreach events for the duration of the temporary office closure. Please contact [email protected] if you have an immediate engagement question during this time.

For More Information 
USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance in response to this situation. Please visit uscis.gov/coronavirus for updates.

Education and precautions are the strongest tools against infection. Get the latest facts by visiting the CDC’s COVID-19 website. Continue to practice good health habits, refrain from handshakes or hugs as greetings, and clean hands and surfaces appropriately.

Kind regards,

Public Engagement Division
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

News from the USCIS:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that it will reuse previously submitted biometrics in order to process valid Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, extension requests due to the temporary closure of Application Support Centers (ASC) to the public in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This announcement is consistent with existing USCIS authorities regarding the agency’s ability to reuse previously submitted biometrics.

Applicants who had an appointment scheduled with an ASC on or after the March 18 closure or has filed an I-765 extension will have their application processed using previously submitted biometrics.  This will remain in effect until ASCs are open for appointments to the public.

Over the years, I have suggested USCIS use fingerprints already in the system instead of having the same applicants come back to the ASC office.  Most applicants visit a ASC center THREE times!  When only one visit would serve the purpose.

In addition to being more convenient for the Applicant, think of the savings on the USCIS side!  They would be able to cut 2/3rds of the biometric appointments, 2/3rds of the notices sent by snail mail and 2/3rds of the headaches to overworked and under paid USCIS staff.

Speaking of USCIS staff, the ASC office in Revere, Massachusetts is managed by Mr. A.  As any immigration lawyer in New England can tell you, Mr. A. is a problem solver.  He answers when called and he helps when he can.  One of the many people working to make our immigration system work from the inside.

Wash your hands!  Be safe!

USCIS will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond

I hope many of you have seen this, but thanks to AILA’s continued advocacy, CIS has agreed to accept original signatures.  More to come, we hope, regarding other requests, such as 90 day extensions on RFE, NOID, etc.

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, we will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, 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.

 See Volume 1, General Policies and Procedures, Part B, Submission of Benefit Requests, Chapter 2, Signatures [1 USCIS-PM B.2].

Message to Foley Law Offices Clients

We sent the message below to Foley Law Offices clients who have interviews scheduled with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The bottom line is the USCIS is closed at least until April 1st.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Client:
I am writing to inform you that your upcoming interview with USCIS has been cancelled. USCIS has canceled all “in person” interviews, including naturalization ceremonies, until April 1st.

You do not have to do anything. USCIS will re-schedule all appointments when it is safe to resume interviews. We will put you on a 30-day calendar and continue to update you as we move forward together.

Foley Law Offices will remain open but most communication will be via email and telephone. If you have specific questions about your case, please email me ([email protected]) or if you would prefer to discuss your situation, call me at (617) 378-8540.

Copied below is the stakeholders email I received from USCIS announcing the shut down. Please use this down time to continue to collect evidence (ie: bank statements, photographs, etc.) of the bona-fides of your case.

Be safe! We will get though this together.

Thanks,

John
03182020

Foley Law Offices, P.C.
10 Post Office Square
Suite 800 South
Boston, MA 02109
Ph: (617) 850-9018
Cell: (617) 378-8540
[email protected]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Stakeholder,

Effective March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is suspending routine in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This suspension of public service will be in effect until at least April 1.

Educating yourself and practicing good hygiene are the strongest tools against infection. Get the latest facts by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 website.

We will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance. Please visit uscis.gov/coronavirus and our office closure web page for updates.

Sincerely,
USCIS Contact Center

USCIS Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public

As of March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. However, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment contact the USCIS Contact Center.

USCIS domestic field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure.

When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule Application Support Center appointments due to the office closure. You will receive a new appointment letter in the mail.

U.S. House Again Approves Irish E-3 Visas

Want some good news for a change? A bill which could give Irish citizens access to thousands of US visas every year has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Once again, it was Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal pushing the buttons that lead to a unanimous voice vote in the House last week that could lead to Ireland being added to the E-3 visa program. The legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate where only one senator (Tom Cotton of Arkansas) blocked it two years ago.

Sources close to Congressman Neal and to the Irish government tell me there has been a lot of behind the scenes politicking and they are confident of a unanimous Senate vote. The bill would then be sent to President Trump and the consensus is that he will sign it into law.

If it becomes law, it opens a legal path to the United States for thousands of Irish citizens. Under the current law, only Australian citizens can apply for the 10,500 E-3 visas that are available every year. The Irish would get the ones not used by the Australians. In recent years, about half (5,500) have gone unused.

An E-3 visa means legal employment but it does not lead to Legal Residency/Green card and it is not for everyone. In order to qualify, applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have a legitimate offer of employment in the U.S. and possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.

The Irish Government is working on a reciprocal arrangement, which would ease restrictions on Americans who wish to retire to Ireland and enable U.S. citizens to work in Ireland on a similar basis.

E-3 visas are for two years, but can be renewed indefinitely. They allow the spouses of recipients to work in the U.S., but not their children.

In order to qualify, applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have a legitimate offer of employment in the U.S. and possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.

There’s no indication when the U.S. Senate will take up the legislation but it is being pushed aggressively by the Irish government and Irish-American leaders in Congress

Get the facts about REAL ID

Beginning October 1, 2020, you will need a REAL ID or other acceptable ID such as a valid passport to fly within the U.S.

REAL ID is a Federal Security Standard for IDs that was created in 2005 as a result of increased federal security measures after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The cost to obtain a REAL or Standard driver’s license/ID card is the same.


For more information visit https://www.mass.gov/guides/massachusetts-identification-id-requirements

Education of an Idealist

I had the good fortune of spending a little time recently with the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.  She was the guest of the Irish American Partnership at its annual women’s Christmas breakfast.

Ambassador Power was born in Ireland and her Irish heritage is very much a part of who she is today.  Before she became President Obama’s U.N. ambassador, she was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  She is now teaching at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Ambassador Power was at the Partnership breakfast to talk about her latest book, The Education of an Idealist.

Her book (and the late night comedy of Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel) has helped me survive the daily atrocities of the Trump Administration.  When you read about the forethought, diligence and planning that went into U.S. foreign policy during the Obama Administration as compared to the shoot from the hip, attention deflection policy now on display, you should be embarrassed as a U.S. citizen.  I know I am.

The Education of an Idealist is going to be a fantastic movie.  It will open in an Irish pub with a little girl kicking a soccer ball off a wall and end with that same little girl, now a woman, walking out of the United Nations building in New York with a son holding one hand and a daughter the other.  It is simply a great and uplifting read and I couldn’t recommend it higher.

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen was at the same Partnership breakfast and Ambassador Power and her book was the subject of a recent column:  https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2020/01/09/the-education-empathetic-policy-maker/YvtlB4VvPNQIznqEcicRpN/story.html?event=event12