Updated: April 30, 2020
Recent news of COVID-19, or Coronavirus has created questions and uncertainty for people around the world. For immigrants who are worried about their legal cases, this only adds to their concerns. Here are updates about how the Coronavirus impacts immigration cases in the United States. But above all, prioritize your health over your immigration status.
USCIS Response to the Coronavirus
To help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, USCIS has temporarily closed their offices to the public until at least June 3.
According to the alert on their website:
“USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. However, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment contact the USCIS Contact Center.”
If you have an office appointment, asylum interview, biometrics appointment, or naturalization ceremony scheduled, you should receive a notice with instructions. Your appointment will be rescheduled once USCIS offices have returned to normal operations.
However, if you have an emergency immigration appointment scheduled before May 3 and you feel sick, USCIS urges that you stay home and reschedule. Or if you are concerned for your safety because you are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, such as those who are pregnant, immune deficient, or elderly, you can request to reschedule your appointment through the USCIS Contact Center.
Immigration Cases Currently Being Heard
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Notes on COVID-19
In response to the Coronavirus, some immigration courts are completely closed. Some courts are still open, but only for detained hearings.
For our clients in Milwaukee, unless you have a detained hearing, your case has been postponed. Currently, the Chicago court is only open to hearings for detained immigrants. However, this may change in the next few weeks. The EOIR recommends that anyone concerned about the status of the courts should follow them on Facebook for the latest updates.
Also, if you receive any new hearing notices, please refer to those as your official source of information.
Coronavirus and Public Charge
USCIS encourages anyone with symptoms resembling Coronavirus to get tested and seek medical treatment. This includes undocumented immigrants.
According to their statement on USCIS.gov, “The Public Charge rule does not restrict access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. In addition, the rule does not restrict access to vaccines for children or adults to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases.”
In other words, if you think you may have Coronavirus, get the medical attention that you need. Do not worry about your immigration status or the public charge rule in regards to COVID-19.
Additionally, if you are unable to work or attend school because of the Coronavirus, you may submit a statement with your application to adjust status explaining how your income has been affected. If you have to rely on public benefits as a result of the Coronavirus, you will not be automatically found to be a public charge. You can explain your situation to Immigration and provide evidence that your use of public benefits was due to the Coronavirus. USCIS will consider your statement when ruling on the totality of your circumstances.
For the safety of yourself and others, if you think you have COVID-19, seek medical attention and follow your doctor’s instructions. Do not go to school or work if you have been ordered to self-quarantine. If your income has been impacted and you need assistance as a result of the Coronavirus, please get the help that you need.
If you have questions, your immigration attorney can help you gather and show evidence that your response to the Coronavirus does not make you a public charge.
Unless You Have a Removal Order, Your Immigration Case is Likely Postponed
Stay in touch with your lawyer. They may be trying to contact you via email or over the phone. Also, keep checking your mailbox. You may see an updated notice from Immigration about the dates of your case if you are waiting for updates on a hearing.
Furthermore, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is rescheduling orders of supervision. It is important that you keep ICE informed as to your correct phone number so that they can call you and reschedule any pending appointments. Your order of supervision should include contact information and instructions for contacting ICE if you need to do so.
If you do not have a lawyer and you are currently seeking one, call their office or email them instead of visiting in person. Some law offices offer video conferencing instead of in-person meetings to follow best practices of social distancing.
Catholic Charities Milwaukee Refugee and Immigration Services
COVID-19 Safety Measures
Our offices will be very limitedly open. Currently, we are not meeting with anyone who is not a client. If you have any updates to your current case, your Catholic Charities attorney will be in touch with you, especially via email.
- Wash your hands well and often
- Cough and sneeze into your elbows
- Keep social distance; stay at least three feet from others
- Do not touch your face
- Stay home if you feel sick, and seek medical attention when you need it
Last updated: 4-30-2020
Immigration law is always changing. We will do our best to keep our website as up-to-date as possible, but the latest information might be more readily available at USCIS.gov. These pages were written to help you better understand your legal options, however, none of the information published by Catholic Charities Milwaukee should be considered legal advice. If you plan to open your own immigration case, hire an immigration attorney to consult you personally.