Image showing the spread of coronavirus among a crowd of people.

The global pandemic has impacted all areas of life in the United States, including immigration in the U.S. The impacts of COVID-19 on immigration services may evolve significantly over the next few weeks and months, depending on how long the crisis continues in our country and around the world. Immigrants and employers who have questions or concerns can contact our Virginia immigration attorney to discuss specific cases and situations.

Ways COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted Immigration in the United States

On March 18, 2020, the United States paused admissions for refugees through April 6, 2020. The announcement came after the suspension of resettlement travel programs was announced by the International Organization for Migration and the UN refugee agency. The agencies expressed concern that international travel could increase the risk of exposure of refugees to the coronavirus. Immigrants and asylum seekers are being turned away at the boards. Illegal immigrants are being returned to their countries of origin, including unaccompanied minors.

Working with Canada and Mexico, the United States has closed the northern and southern borders to non-essential travel. The strict travel restrictions instituted by the United States impacts numerous countries worldwide. These travel restrictions can impact legal immigrants who may travel for work or have valid green cards that allow them to reside in the United States. 

On March 18, 2020, The U.S. State Department announced that it was canceling all visa appointments at consulates and embassies worldwide. Individuals with immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments have up to one year from the date of payment of the visa fee to reschedule the visa appointments after the lifting of restrictions. 

For immigrants who are already in the United States, the USCIS response to the CVOID -19 pandemic has significantly impacted immigration services. The USCIS announced that it suspended in-person services through at least May 3, 2020. That date could be extended if necessary depending on how the pandemic progresses. The USCIS is attempting to provide emergency services in limited situations. 

In some cases, the USCIS extended deadlines related to requested information or applications, but applicants should carefully review the information provided by the USCIS on its website to determine if they need to take action to avoid ICE enforcement while the USCIS offices are temporarily closed.

COVID-19 and ICE Enforcement

ICE also announced changes in its enforcement policies and procedures in response to the coronavirus outbreak. During the pandemic, ICE stated it would focus enforcement on individuals subject to mandatory detention on criminal grounds and individuals who pose a public safety concern. 

Other enforcement actions are up to the discretion of the agency. Alternatives to detention exist when deemed appropriate. However, Homeland Security Investigations will continue services to protect the public and national security. No one should assume that the COVID-19 pandemic will protect them from being deported or detained.

Delays in Immigration Decisions 

Immigrants can expect significant delays in decisions with the closing of immigration courts nationwide. Depending on the length of the pandemic, immigration courts could be closed for several months. Even though the USCIS is attempting to process emergency applications and deal with special circumstances, immigrants and employers can expect to be significantly impacted by the delay in court decisions. 

Contact Our Virginia Immigration Attorney for Help

There is no way to know for sure how long the COVID-19 pandemic will impact immigration in the United States. It is also impossible to know the extent of the impact on immigration in this country and worldwide. 

Our Virginia immigration attorney is closely monitoring the situation, including monitoring all updates from the various government agencies governing immigrants and immigration services. If you have questions about your immigration status, call our Virginia immigration attorneys. 

Posted in: Immigration