COVID-19, also known as the “corona virus” has shocked the world. Within weeks, everything came to a standstill…. including immigration and travel. The full effects of this pandemic will not be known for some time. However, it is safe to say the world has never seen anything like this before.
Many countries have completely closed their borders. The United States, for example has placed a “travel ban” on Europeans and Chinese due to the high level of infection. Similarly, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. have agreed to reduce cross-border travel. Many other countries have imposed similar restrictions.
Due to the travel restrictions and other factors, immigration has also been impacted. United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended all face-to-face interactions. Therefore, the agency will continue accepting new filings and will process them, however, interviews will be postponed.
Likewise, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) has canceled non-detained hearings. And many of the urgent hearings have been scheduled for teleconferencing. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also made some changes to their normal operating procedures. For example, ICE has suspended most deportation efforts and has canceled Order of Supervision appointments (for those required to report) while also being more lenient with granting benefits such as Stays of Removal.
The overall takeaway is this – if you have an immigration case that you wish to file, do not be deterred by the current climate. Your case may encounter some delays but it will still be quicker to file now than waiting for everything to clear up and then filing. Most immigration agencies work on a first in first out system.