US Citizenship and Immigration Services plans June 4 office reopen


President Donald J. Trump listens as U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams delivers remarks on protecting seniors with diabetes Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

The White House from Washington, DC / Public domain

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

Currently there are rumours that a number of work related non-immigrant visa categories could be suspended by Trump.  The USCIS service centers that actually deal with non-immigrant visa applications are still open.  The USCIS offices that are closed and are about to reopen are more likely to deal with appointments.  

If H1B and L1 visas, and OPT optional practical training for F-1 visa students are suspended as some people in the Republican Party are pushing for, then this will cause serious problems for many businesses that rely on skilled workers.  There are ongoing arguments between different factions in the Republican party.   

Republican Senator Cruz and certain other conservative senators are urging a suspension of all new guest worker visas for 60 days and for some categories to be suspended for up to a year;

“…until employment has returned to normal levels.”

In contrast another Texas Republican Senator Cornyn has said the following:

“guest workers are needed to boost American business, not take American jobs.”

Perhaps there will be a suspension of one or more non-immigrant visas.  Lets hope that if this does happen, as with the previous immigration ban of 22 April 2020, it will be limited in scope.

Amid severe financial difficulties, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced plans to reopen its field offices, and asylum offices on or after June 4, 2020 to include non-emergency appointments.  It seems that USCIS Application Support Centers (ASCs) will open some time after 4 June 2020.  These USCIS offices were temporarily shutdown on March 18, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. A USCIS statement said the date is ‘tentative’, but a June 4 reopen is the target for some of the offices.

Following office closures on March 18, USCIS had previously set a reopen date of May 3. However, with coronavirus cases in the US rising rapidly in April, a May reopen was delayed. The planned June 4 reopening will include some field offices and asylum offices.  it is quite likely that later on in June application support centers (ASCs) will reopen.

USCIS in financial trouble

Recently, reported that USCIS has sought intervention from Congress, asking for a $1.2 billion lifeline due to financial struggles caused by a steep drop in US visa applications, amid coronavirus. USCIS relies heavily on fees charged for US visa and citizenship applications to cover its operating costs and expenses.

In an effort to kick-start an increase in US visa and citizenship applications, and generate funds, USCIS is readying to reopen its offices on June 4. 

Due to a number of Trump orchestrated immigration restrictions and bureaucracy, most US visa programs require an in-person interview as part of the application process. With USCIS offices around the world closed, this has been impossible for most applicants.

The stricken government agency claims that it could run out of money as early as the summer, with its receipts potentially dropping by more than 60 percent once the current fiscal year ends on September 30, 2020.

A spokesperson for the agency recently said: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue. Without the $1.2 billion injection from Congress, USCIS will be unable to fund its operations in a matter of months.”

ASC appointments

As part of its reopening plans, USCIS will immediately reschedule ASC appointments canceled due to office closures amid coronavirus. This will be done automatically, according to the government agency’s official statement.  However, the actual dates when USCIS Application Support Centers will reopen remains uncertain.  Perhaps later on in June.

It’s understood that USCIS will issue ASC appointment notices to foreign nationals whose application or petition was filed during office closures, with no action required from applicants at this time. USCIS has stated that applicants will be notified of new ASC appointment dates via email, which will include a time and location.

For applicants who had scheduled InfoPass or other types of appointment, these will need to be rescheduled through a USCIS Contact Center once office-based services are again available to the public. However, USCIS is recommending that applicants check that their respective office is indeed open prior to calling the Contact Center.

Emergency appointments available

Although USCIS offices are closed to the masses, there are a number of employees continuing to provide ‘mission-essential’ services that do not require in-person contact with the public.

Limited, in-person emergency services are available, for which foreign nationals are advised to call the USCIS Contact Center for help in emergency situations.

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