If you’re concerned about how the U.S. immigration system’s response to COVID-19 could affect your case, you aren’t alone.
The U.S. has implemented several policies to allegedly curb the spread of the virus, including:
- Suspending in-person services with USCIS
- Suspending routine services (including all visa appointments) at U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- Suspending the premium processing program for Forms I-129 and I-140
- Closing the U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico borders
- Prohibiting most people from traveling to the U.S. from Ireland, the UK, the Schengen Area, Iran, and China (except for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents)
Countless people have been affected by these changes and policies, and many have pointed out the futility of the government’s efforts. According to the CATO Institute, research does not validate the use of travel bans during pandemics. Furthermore, immigration is enormously beneficial to the U.S. economy, and the U.S. will need all the support it can get after the crisis. Immigration is critical even during the pandemic, as immigrants are significantly overrepresented in professions deemed critical in the fight against COVID-19 (e.g. healthcare professionals, scientists, hospital staff, etc.)
Even so, the latest executive order continues to restrict immigration, and many are concerned about whether it will prevent them from completing their immigration journeys. To help you understand the order and its potential effects on your future, here are answers and insights from the Law Office of Robert J. Maher.
Q: What type of immigration does the order restrict?
A: The order places a 60-day ban on both employment-based and family-based immigrant visas (i.e. green cards). If you are applying for (or already possess) a nonimmigrant visa, the executive order will not affect you. After 30 days, however, the administration may adjust the ban to include nonimmigrants.
Q: When does the ban take effect?
A: The ban took effect at 11:59 PM EDT on April 23, 2020. After 60 days, President Trump will review the situation and may extend the ban.
Q: What if I was already in the U.S. when the ban took effect?
Generally, you are only prohibited from receiving a green card if you were outside of the U.S. at 11:59 PM EDT on April 23rd AND did not have travel authorization, such as advance parole.
Q: Does the order prevent all green card applicants from becoming permanent residents?
No. Several groups of people are exempt from the ban, including:
- Spouses/children of U.S. citizens (and prospective adoptees, via the IR-4 or IH-4 visa)
- Members of the Armed Forces (and their spouses/children)
- Doctors, researchers, and other professionals deemed essential for combating the pandemic (and their spouses/children)
- Individuals whom the Secretaries of DHS and State believe advance national interests or assist with law enforcement objectives
- Applicants for EB-5 (immigrant investor) visas
- Asylum seekers
- Individuals (and their spouses/children) who are eligible for Special Immigrant visas because they are Afghan/Iraqi translators or certain U.S. government employees
Adjudicating officers have been ordered to use their discretion when determining whether an applicant falls into one of the above categories.
Q: What if my case is already pending in the U.S.?
If you have an open case with USCIS, the executive order should not affect you.
Q: Can I appeal a green card denial?
Yes, with skilled legal support. The appeal process has a short filing window, and few people who file without an attorney manage to overturn a decision and obtain permanent residency.
Contact Our Firm for Case-Specific Information
While the immigration system as a whole has suffered from COVID-19-related restrictions, your case is unique and requires highly personalized attention. At the Law Office of Robert J. Maher, we understand the pressure you may be experiencing during this unprecedented crisis. Let us help you overcome unexpected challenges and accomplish your immigration goals despite these difficult circumstances. Due to rapidly changing circumstances, we urge you to get in touch with us before new obstacles arise.
For more information about the 60-day immigration ban or to get immediate, personalized guidance with your case, give our office a call at (646) 681-1977 or contact us online. Due to COVID-19, we are conducting all consultations remotely, but we are committed to supporting you throughout the pandemic.