On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they were extending the flexibilities originally provided for on March 30, 2020, in response to the pandemic. The flexibilities extended the deadline that applicants have to respond to certain notices issued by USCIS.
The Trump Administration signed an executive order halting most immigration to the U.S. in March of this year. The executive order was to protect U.S. workers from labor disruptions due to the pandemic. However, the net effect was to starve U.S. businesses of workers that they vitally needed. Indeed, the Trump Administration has already begun rolling back the ban for several nonimmigrant worker classifications, including H-1B, H-1A, H-2B, and H-2A. Furthermore, the State Department announced that it was resuming visa services in July of this year.
The flexibilities announced by USCIS are the latest in a series of policy reversals or modifications by the Trump Administration. Petitioners have an extra 60 days to respond to the following:
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14)
- Notices of Intent to Resolve
- Requests for Evidence
- Notices of Intent to Deny
- Filing date requirements for Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Form N-336)
- Notices of Intent to Rescind
- Notices of Intent to Termination regional investment centers
- Filing date requirements for Notice of Appeal or Motion (Form I-290B)
The flexibilities are in place until January 1, 2021, but they may be extended again. The USCIS is also proceeding on a limited basis. The flexibilities are as much to grant relief for petitioners as it is a recognition that the USCIS is operating with less than a skeleton staff. This year, the Trump Administration began issuing notices to over ten thousand USCIS workers that they may be furloughed due to budget constraints.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States earlier this year. The country has endured two flare-ups and is expected to experience a third spike in cases as the country moves to winter. Public health experts theorize that cases will spike as people are forced to conduct more business indoors. On September 30, 2020, the Trump Administration signed a bill granting the USCIS funding through the end of the year. However, if Congress and the Administration are unable to pass more continuing resolutions, the USCIS may halt operations. Visa services may experience further disruptions due to the one-two punch of the pandemic and budget shortfalls.