What is the current status of Immigration?
By Patricia Elizee, Esq.,
Since the start of the Corona Virus Pandemic, there has been a misconception that immigration is closed. This is not the case! Yes, like every other organization or business, there was a brief pause with immigration. But they have since reopened and have been processing cases! Immigration as we know it is really made up of different agencies. Each agency has its own responsibilities and its own policies.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services better known as USCIS is the agency that receives the majority of the immigration applications. When you submit an application to immigration for a green card, citizenship, Temporary Protective Status, or a work permit card, that application is sent to USCIS. At the very beginning of Covid, USCIS closed its processing centers and local offices, however, within a matter of weeks they reopened with modified procedures. Many people made the mistake of not submitting or waiting to submit an immigration application because they believed that USCIS was closed. USCIS continued to receive and process immigration applications and petitions throughout Covid.
When you file an application with USCIS, it gets sent to a major processing center. If the case needs an in-person appointment, once the request is reviewed, the file is sent to a local office, near your location. The local USCIS offices are open. They now have strict covid guidelines that must be followed. For example, they limit the number of people that can physically be in a room together during the actual appointment and they ask that you bring your own pens to sign any necessary forms. Some local offices are now requiring interpreters to appear telephonically and not in-person. They limit the number of people in the waiting area and they changed the citizenship swearing in ceremonies as well to meet covid restrictions. If you are an immigrant in the United States and want to file for an immigration benefit, USCIS is open and will process your application.
The National Visa Center or NVC is another important immigration agency. The NVC receives the immigration file once it’s approved by USCIS if the immigrant that is receiving the green card or the visa is abroad. The NVC will process the file including collecting any necessary forms and documents. They will also determine which consular post is the appropriate one to complete the visa processing. They will transfer the file to the consulate where the interview will take place. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NVC did reduce the number of employees and is only responding to inquiries made using the “ASK NVC” form if the inquiry concerns urgent humanitarian or medical issues or necessary case updates. While the NVC is not functioning at full capacity due to the covid pandemic, they are functioning and processing files. It is very important that the Petitioner and the Beneficiary for a pending case respond to any inquires from the National Visa Center. If you fail to provide the NVC the required documents timely you risk having your case denied.
The consulate office at the US Embassy abroad is where any beneficiary living abroad will report for their in-person interview. Each United State consulate has its own website. On each consulate’s website they have detailed instructions on how to communicate with their office concerning pending cases. Each consulate has its own timeline to re-open their facilities for the processing of visas and green cards. Some consulates have already started seeing people in person for tourist visas, while other consulates have not reopened at all. Some consulates have limited in-person appointments to student visas and those renewing their tourist visas and do not need an in-person appointment.
Immigration cases have definitely been impacted by the covid 19 pandemic. Let’s also not forget the different travel restrictions and visa moratoriums imposed by the Trump administration. Immigration, however, is still open and continues to take new petitions and process them. If you have any questions on how to file a new case or on how to follow up with a pending case, please make sure to give us a call!
Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of the Elizee Law Firm. The firm is located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Ms. Elizee can be reached at