The COVID-19 crisis has had some important repercussions in the immigration world. Travel bans, applications for visas halted, hearings suspended, immigrants stranded. Below you can find some of the recent updates from some of the most important government agencies related to immigration.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
One of the major rules implemented by this administration was the Public Charge Rule. The Rule in essence says that, any immigrant that is likely to become a “public charge” (apply for benefits from the government) may be denied a green card. USCIS is suspending the public charge rule for needs related to the COVID-19 virus. In a statement the agency said: “To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services, USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination”
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
In terms of the immigration courts, though the administration was reluctant to close them at the beginning of the crisis, the majority of the courts are now closed. On Monday 16, EOIR, posted in its Facebook page that until April 10, 2020, all non-detained master calendar hearings are postponed. Other types of hearings are likely to be postponed too.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Similarly, ICE stated in its instagram account that they will only “focus enforcement on public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds. For those individuals who do not fall into those categories, ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations) will exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention.”
Department of State (DOS)
The DOS suspended all routine visa services as of Wednesday-18 in most countries due to the coronavirus outbreak—the department stated.
Additionally, DOS has implemented the “Satisfactory Departure” request. Satisfactory Departure is a process put in place by the government where a traveler may be granted 30 additional days if there is an emergency situation that prevents the individual from departing the United States within his or her period of authorized stay. As long as the traveler leaves within the 30-day window, he or she will not be considered to have violated U.S. immigration laws by overstaying.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also began allowing certain travelers the opportunity to make a Satisfactory Departure request directly at a port of entry if, due to COVID-19–related travel issues, a traveler is unable to depart the US before his or her period of admission expires. Satisfactory Departure requests must generally be made to USCIS; however, in extraordinary circumstances, CBP may adjudicate requests.
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