COVID-19 USCIS Office Closures Guidance

March 25, 2020

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Updated May 19, 2020

USCIS announced that it is closing its offices to in-person services until at least June 4 and this includes biometrics appointments at the Application Support Centers in response to COVID-19

Since USCIS announced their office closure they have made the following changes to the DACA renewal request process while their offices remain closed for in-person services:

  • If your biometrics are needed to process your renewal request but the Application Support Center is closed, USCIS may use your previously submitted biometrics, meaning the background check that was used to evaluate your previous DACA request.
  • “Wet” signatures (i.e. original, ink signatures) are not required at this time to submit a renewal request. This means you can work with your legal service provider electronically, and do not need to meet them in person, to file your DACA request by mail. Neither the applicant’s nor attorney’s signature needs to be “wet”; it can be a copy of a signature that was scanned/emailed/faxed.
  • When USCIS wants you to submit additional evidence to support your DACA renewal request, it will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you decide to respond to an RFE, it’s best that you respond quickly since you must provide the additional evidence normally by the deadline on the RFE. If USCIS sends you a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), it is informing you that USCIS doesn’t think you meet the requirements for DACA. If you decide to respond to a NOID, it’s best that you respond quickly because normally if you don’t respond within 33 days, your DACA application will be denied. However, due to COVID-19 concerns, RFE and NOID deadlines have been extended. According to USCIS, “For applicants and petitioners who receive an RFE or NOID dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, any responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken.” We recommend that if you decide to respond to RFEs and NOIDs, you do so by the deadline (if you can) to reduce the chance of a delay in the processing of your DACA renewal request.  Also, if your circumstances have changed significantly since your last DACA renewal request was granted (for example, you were arrested for, or convicted of, a felony or “significant misdemeanor”), you should first consult with a legal service provider to discuss the potential implications for your DACA renewal.

In light of these announcements and a Supreme Court decision expected between now and the end of June, we strongly recommend that you consider whether to apply now even if you’d be applying “early” for renewal, meaning more than 150 days before your current DACA expires.

We strongly encourage you to consult with an immigration attorney or Department of Justice-Accredited Representative to file your DACA renewal request.

If you decide to apply, we encourage you to send your application certified (mail return receipt requested) so that you have proof of when your application arrived at your corresponding USCIS lockbox.

Considerations may include:

  • We can’t know for sure how USCIS’ office closures will affect the processing of DACA requests, but we expect this closure may affect the processing times for DACA renewals. You should consider submitting your application soon so it can arrive at a USCIS lockbox and begin the process.
  • If you apply early, USCIS could deprioritize your application and, while you’re waiting for your case to be processed, the option to renew may end. If the option to renew ends due to the Supreme Court decision, USCIS may “grandfather in” already-accepted applications and continue processing them.
  • Or USCIS may stop processing already-accepted applications and may return the application fees that were submitted with the unprocessed applications (like what happened when DACA and advance parole for DACA recipients were terminated in September 2017).
  • If you apply early and are granted DACA renewal, you should be aware that your “new” DACA may be valid before your “old” DACA expires. In any event, your new work permit will expire two years after its date of approval. (Note, this may shorten your total time with DACA if you are not able to renew again after the Supreme Court decision.
  • The processing times listed on the USCIS website range between 4 to 36 months, depending on which service center has your case. These processing times are long but anecdotally we’ve heard that some cases still take only 3-5 months to process. Consider the possibility, however, that it might take longer for your renewal application to be processed this time than it did when you applied for renewal previously.

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