The coronavirus crisis and the budget shortfall the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is facing, somehow have turned in favor of immigrants with open processes, who must support their visa, green card and citizenship applications with more evidence or documents.
As the pandemic has slowed the agency’s work pace since it normalized operations on June 4, immigration authorities again extended this week more flexibility in the delivery deadlines to assist immigrants and foreigners responding to agency requests. This measure was set to expire on July 1.
The U.S. government’s initiative seeks to “to minimize the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time,” said the agency, which could furlough nearly three-quarters of its workforce, cutting back administrative operations as tens of thousands of foreign nationals eagerly await their ceremonies to become a U.S citizen through naturalization.
These USCIS requests and notifications benefited by more flexibility give applicants and their attorneys the opportunity to intervene by providing more documentation or correcting mistakes before adjudicators close or denied their cases, sometimes initiating deportation procedures.
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Immigrants get more time to respond to USCIS requests
After immigrants apply for immigration benefits and submit their forms with the corresponding requirements, it is common for immigration authorities to ask for more evidence to establish eligibility.
On Wednesday, the agency announced in a statement that it will give applicants more time to respond to the following requests, notices or decisions issued between March 1 and Sept. 11, 2020:
▪ Requests for Evidence (RFE)
▪ Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID)
▪ Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIR)
▪ Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers (NOIT)
▪ Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14)
▪ Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion
Who benefits from extended assistance in immigration procedures?
According to the USCIS statement, flexibility in the response deadline is offered to applicants and petitioners who receive one of the seven documents above mentioned, including applications, notifications or decisions.
“USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action,” the agency explained.
“We will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before we take any action,” it added, referring to the form to request a hearing before an immigration officer on the denial of a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and the appeal notice.
Naturalization ceremonies for American citizenship
USCIS has reiterated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security agency is prioritizing naturalization ceremonies to become a U.S. citizen.
On Wednesday, the agency also said that on the occasion of Independence Day, naturalization ceremonies are being held from July 1 to July 7 throughout the country despite the pandemic.
USCIS resumed naturalization in early June under a new protocol to protect its staff and the immigrant community. Since then, it has naturalized approximately 64,500 new American citizens, the agency reported.
“The ceremonies have been shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance, incorporating social distancing and other safety precautions,” the agency said.
How to apply for U.S. citizenship
To apply for naturalization, legal permanent residents must submit, by mail or online, Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The form must be properly filled in, strictly following these USCIS instructions.
The form must be submitted along with $725 fee payment, which includes $85 for the biometric services. USCIS accepts money orders, credit cards, personal and bank checks payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The application also has to include all evidence and supporting documentation listed. Do not send original documents unless specifically required.
Some of these documents are:
▪ Two passport-style photos.
▪ Copy of the permanent resident card, known as a green card.
▪ Copy of current legal marital status document.
▪ Documents for armed forces members or their spouses, such as certification of military or naval service using Form N-426.
Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth or Instagram. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.