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COVID-19 & Impact on Immigration for Petitions and Applications Pending with USCIS (March 30, 2020)

The USCIS is continuing to process petitions and applications filed with the agency through its usual lockbox offices.  Receipts are being issued by USCIS with some occasional delays likely related to the number of employees and contractors working at any given time.  Petitions and applications are routed by the lockbox offices to specific regional centers for further processing and adjudication.  (This includes centers located in California, Nebraska, Texas, Vermont, Missouri and the Washington DC area.)  The receipts you receive from USCIS indicate which of these centers will be responsible for your petition and or application.  At some point, USCIS may transfer your petition or application to another center to speed up processing.  Essentially this is a work load adjustment.

USCIS Interviews.  As of March 18, 2020 USCIS ceased all in person interviews at its field offices for two weeks and then extended that date for another week until April 7.  Cancellation notices were sent by email and by mail.  USCIS has also cancelled all naturalization ceremonies for this same time period.  All biometric appointments have been cancelled with all Application Support Centers closed.  Based on President Trump’s social distancing announcement on Sunday, March 29, it seems likely that the cancellation of interviews, biometric appointments, and naturalization ceremonies will continue through the end of April.  Resets of interviews will come from the USCIS.  THERE IS NO NEED TO REQUEST A RESET.

 Waivers of Adjustment Interviews.  At this time, it is unknown whether USCIS may waive some interviews for adjustment of status applicants.  In the past, this had occurred for the parents of US citizens and for employment based applicants and their dependents—unless the applicant had any criminal record, including even minor traffic citations.  Time will tell how this will unfold.

Employment Authorization Documents & Biometrics.    TODAY March 30 the USCIS announced it will utilize the fingerprint records it has for individuals applying for renewals of employment authorization, including DACA applicants. remains to be seen. 

NOTE:  Applicants for Adjustment of Status (I485) seeking renewal of their employment authorization documents (EADs) who  file their I765 applications prior to expiration of their current EADs are authorized to continue their employment for up to 180 days after the expiration date of the current EADs—they must present the USCIS receipt and the soon to expire EAD to the employer.

Regional Service Center Adjudications.  These regional centers are continuing to adjudicate petitions and applications.  This includes the I129 petition filed by employers seeking to classify or extend a range of nonimmigrant visa classifications ranging from H1B to L1 to O1 to R1 among others.  This also includes the I539 applications for dependents of foreign nationals with these types of visa classifications.  This includes I140 immigrant visa petitions.  BUT there is NO premium processing:  it may be resumed in the future.  This includes I130 immigrant visa petitions filed on behalf of qualifying family members who are overseas or who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States.  This includes I129F petitions for fiancé/es of US citizens.  Times for the processing of these petitions varies widely.  Processing times are posted at

Permanent Resident Applications.  How these applications will be adjudicated is unclear at this time.  The National Benefit Center (NBC) in Lee Summit, Missouri handles these applications in terms of review and of scheduling of interviews by USCIS Field Offices.  If an NBC adjudicator determines an application requires additional evidence before it was deemed ready to move to a field office for an interview, then a Request for Evidence would be issued by the NBC.  Since no USCIS field office interviews are occurring at this time, many permanent resident applications are on hold.

Emergencies.  USCIS adjudicators continue to work in field offices on adjudication of applications when individuals had been interviewed but that were pending RFE responses or resolution of other issues.  For emergencies it is possible to contact USCIS customer service by phone and attempt to schedule an in person appointment with USCIS in a local field office.  Generally, USCIS Customer Service has a very narrow view of what constitutes an emergency.

NOTE:  Changes come swiftly.  Stay tuned and stay in unless your work is essential.  And a SHOUT OUT of Thanks to all such essential workers from those in health care to those long haul drivers moving goods and so many others!

STILL THE SAME OLD DIVERSITY VISA LOTTERY (now open for filing online for the 2020 allocation of 50,000 immigrant visas)

YES, the Diversity Visa Lottery is alive and well.  MOST foreign nationals can file from October 3, 2018 through November 6, 2018 so long as they have completed the equivalent of a US high school education or have worked for at least two years within the last five years in a qualifying occupation.

The diversity visa lottery was established by the US Congress almost 30 years ago to increase the number of persons who could immigrate to the United States from countries with historically low rates of immigration.  Individuals born in the following countries are NOT eligible for the 2020 lottery:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Phillipines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.  Note that persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

To apply and to get more information about qualification, go to www.dvlottery.state.govMultiple entries will disqualify you!!

Failure to list all your dependents could mean you will not be issued an immigrant visa, if you are chosen for a diversity visa.

Should you apply this year?  YES, as it could be the last year of the diversity visa lottery depending on what Congress does in 2019 in terms of immigration legislation.

Public Schools in the US: Which Foreign Nationals Can Attend?

As August approaches, most public schools start classes in the latter half of that month. Foreign nationals often get seemingly conflicting answers to the question of who can legally attend public schools.  Often a foreign national moving into the US does not realize that there is more than one answer to the question.

First, children can attend a public school located in the area in which they are residing. This is true regardless of their immigration status.   This is what the school personnel will tell the parent who rents or buys a home in the area the school serves.

BUT, if foreign national children attend US public schools, they may violate their immigration status. If their parents are in the US with B1/B2 tourist visa status, and the children have the same status, the children will violate their status if they attend a public school. [8 CFR 214.2(b)(7)]  This can affect the eligibility of the parents and the children to obtain other non-immigrant visas in the future.

If the parents are in the US and admitted in certain other non-immigrant classifications and the children have been admitted in a derivative (dependent) classification related to the parent’s visa, then the children will not violate their status. Some of the most common non-immigrant visa classifications that allow the dependent children to attend public schools without adverse immigration consequences include the following ones:

A   (generally for diplomats—consul officers and staff; military)

E    (treaty traders and treaty investors)

F     (student—generally at college or university)

G    (international quasi government agency)

H    (professionals; trainees)

I      (international press)

J       (exchange visitor—student, research, employment)

L      (intracompany transferee)

O      (extraordinary ability)

R      (religious worker)


Often a parent may not be able to obtain one of these non-immigrant visa classifications until after the school year begins—and may prefer not to pursue a student visa for the child to attend a private school.  To avoid problems in applying for and obtaining the visa classification, the parent should consider postponing the children coming to the US until the visa status has been approved for the parent.  In the alternative, a parent could have his/her child tutored or home-schooled until the status has been approved or can be requested.

Some foreign national children do not attend public schools.  They attend private schools and are in the United States with F1 student visa classification based on certain documents that the school issues to the student and a SEVIS filing the student makes with US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Not all private schools have this authorization.  Some choose not to because of the ICE application filing fee cost and extensive documentation requirements.  Some choose not to because of the records required on an ongoing basis by ICE about student enrollment and attendance.     Generally, public schools elect not to seek authorization to issue student visas often because it is almost impossible to deal with the interface of state student funding allocations and F1 student visa programs.  (Public elementary schools are expressly prohibited from being approved to issue student visas.)  Not all private schools have this authorization in part because it is an expensive and complicated application process to obtain this authorization.


A child living within the boundary of a given public school can attend that school but doing so may be a violation of his or her immigration status.  Generally, it is a violation of a child’s immigration status if he/she attends public school while in the US as a B2 visitor.

Nancy Taylor Shivers     July 2014