USCIS has announced that some of its domestic offices are scheduled to reopen and provide non-emergency services starting Thursday, June 4, 2020. These offices, including field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs), have been closed to routine, in-person services since March 18, 2020, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They will slowly reopen to the public in accordance with CDC guidelines regarding social distancing, cleanliness, and other protective measures.
Offices will schedule fewer appointments and interviews per day to reduce crowding in waiting rooms and allow time for cleaning. Those with scheduled appointments will receive appointment notices that include information about safety precautions for visitors to USCIS facilities. USCIS urges those who are feeling sick to stay home and reschedule their appointments; there will be no penalty for rescheduling an appointment for illness-related reasons.
General Safety Precautions
Safety precautions for reopened facilities include the following:
• Visitors will not be allowed to enter the facility if they have any symptoms of coronavirus (including cough, fever, or shortness of breath); have been in contact with anyone known or suspected to have coronavirus during the last 14 days; or have been personally directed to self-quarantine by a health care provider or other public health official within the last 14 days.
• Visitors will not be allowed to enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment or more than 30 minutes prior to naturalization ceremonies.
• Hand sanitizer will be available at entry points.
• Visitors to the facility must wear masks or other facial coverings that cover the mouth and nose. Visitors without masks will either be provided one by USCIS or asked to reschedule their appointment.
• Markings and barriers in the facility will be used to enforce social distancing guidelines.
• Individuals may be required to answer health screening questions before entering the facility.
• Visitors are encouraged to bring their own writing utensils (blue- or black-ink pens).
USCIS will automatically reschedule asylum interviews postponed during the closure, and they will send out interview notices with the new time, date, and location to interviewees. Preparations are being made for video-facilitated asylum interviews with the interviewing officer and applicant in separate rooms. Technology like mobile phones will be available for the officer, applicant, interpreter, and representative to allow all necessary parties to fully participate while maintaining social distancing.
In affirmative asylum interviews, the applicant and all dependents listed on the application are required to attend. If the applicant doesn’t speak English, an interpreter must attend, as well. If the applicant is a minor, then a representative, witness, an individual providing disability accommodations, or another “trusted adult” may attend also.
In non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, applicants must likewise bring all family members listed on the interview notice. Representatives may attend but are encouraged to participate by telephone. For these kinds of interviews, USCIS will provide professional, contracted interpreters.
USCIS will also send notices regarding postponed naturalization ceremonies, which will be shortened to limit potential exposure for attendees. Links to videos usually played during the ceremony will instead be provided via flyer along with other information. All legally required parts of the ceremony will still take place. Attendees are limited to naturalization candidates and individuals providing assistance to the disabled.
Interviews and Appointments
USCIS will send notices to those with previously scheduled appointments and interviews. Other applicants and petitioners requiring these services must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center. Visitors to USCIS facilities are limited to the applicant, a representative, a family member, and an individual providing disability services. It is the applicant’s responsibility to arrange an interpreter to be available by phone if necessary.
Application Support Centers
USCIS will automatically reschedule necessary ASC appointments and send appointment letters to individuals. These letters will also include safety requirements specific to the individual office. Those who appear at a date and time other than the one listed on the appointment notice may face significant delays in processing (except for members of the military).