20,000 Foot Summary: How COVID-19 is Impacting US Immigration Law
COVID-19 has upended virtually every aspect of modern life. It has left many Americans with news cycle whiplash – it’s harder than ever to keep up with the fast-paced, ever-changing world.
This sense of confusion is felt even more by those who aspire to become American citizens. Green card holders, international students, and H1-B visa holders are amongst the millions of foreign nationals who find themselves increasingly uncertain about their status in the United States. Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) still accepted and processed visa and green card applications, all offices were closed to the public for several weeks and are only slowly re-opening. Here are a few other ways COVID-19 is affecting US immigration law:
Naturalization Ceremonies Postponed
Anyone planning to become a U.S. citizen soon should be prepared for delays. All naturalization ceremonies were postponed through at least early June, meaning thousands of Permanent Residents couldn’t take their Oath of Allegiance, the final step towards becoming U.S. citizens. Even with the ceremonies postponed, it’s still a good idea for people who qualify to submit their naturalization applications as soon as possible. USCIS has also proposed major fee increases that could go live at any time. Given COVID-19’s dramatic impact on the economy, it may be safe to assume that fee increases will kick in sooner rather than later.
Green Cards Delayed
In April, President Trump ordered a 60-day suspension on the issuance of permanent residence to green cards applicants living outside the U.S., and it is possible that this period will be extended before it expires. The President’s suspension decision came on the heels of his ban on the entry of travelers from many countries around the world. About half of all green card applicants are already living in the U.S., however, so they were not affected by this delay. Those seeking temporary visas have continued to be permitted to do so, but with most in-person activities at US consulates around the globe also suspended, the number of visas being issued even to critical healthcare and agricultural workers has greatly decreased.
COVID-19 Relief Kept Out of Reach
By now, stimulus checks have gone out to millions of Americans. For the millions of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., however, there is no relief in sight because only people with social security numbers are eligible for stimulus money. While states like California and New York have created funds to help address this, wider relief is not likely. Even American citizens who are married to immigrants are struggling to access stimulus money because the bill excludes those in households of mixed immigration status. This has left millions of U.S. born or naturalized citizens without emergency relief payments.
If you have questions about the effects of COVID-19 on your or a loved one’s immigration status, give us a call. We know that you may be faced with a lot of uncertainty during this time, and we’re here to help guide you through that uncertainty. Contact our immigration department at 501-424-6644 (501-42-IMMIG) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.