In the middle of March 2020, federal government agencies in the United States published a series of announcements related to how they intend to operate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the case of immigrants applying for residency status, Citizenship and Immigration Services issued an important clarification: testing positive for the coronavirus wouldn’t diminish their chances of getting green cards. This announcement was made a month after the implementation of a rule deeming sick foreigners “public charges,” thus making them less likely to qualify for immigration benefits.
At the same time the aforementioned announcement was made, USCIS officials stated applicants should exercise patience with regard to waiting times for their petitions and applications. Immigration offices in the Seattle metropolitan region were shut down in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, and applicants were told processing of their cases could slow down during the lockdown period.
Exactly how much longer green card applications will take during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t known. Let’s look at the best-case scenarios as estimated by USCIS prior to the declaration of a national emergency:
- Foreigners who entered the U.S. with an immigrant visa and paid the application fee before their arrival could get their conditional or permanent residency cards within 120 days, but this is a highly optimistic time frame. The USCIS also estimates immigrants admitted at ports of entry can get their green cards within two months of their fees being paid, but this mostly applies to foreigners from certain countries with K-1 visas who marry American citizens soon after arriving in the U.S.
- In the case of family-based immigration, the parent or child of an American citizen can get a green card within a year, but this best-case scenario is subject to annual caps and even the political climate. Processing times for family-based green card applications have slowed down considerably since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.
- As for employment-based green card petitions, they can take between three and six years because of annual caps and backlogs. However, there are some factors that can make processing times faster, and these can be evaluated by immigration law firms, including immigration lawyers in San Diego.
- For returning immigrants whose conditional or permanent resident status was lost because of a prolonged stay outside the U.S., getting their green cards back doesn’t have to take a long time. The deciding factor in these cases hinges upon their interviews at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad, and this is when the involvement of immigration attorneys could be crucial.
- With regard to the diversity visa program, which is commonly known as the “visa lottery,” those who are selected can expect their processing to begin. If there are no issues related to admissibility, a green card could be obtained in about 18 to 24 months.
When they need assistance with any issues relating to immigration services in San Diego, immigrants should reach out to the experienced attorneys at KS Visa Law. From green cards to family immigration to naturalization, we can address all your immigration-related needs. Call us today at 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.
On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS offices will begin to reopen on May 4 unless the public closures are extended further. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.
USCIS will continue to provide limited emergency services. Please call the Contact Center for assistance with emergency services.
USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the extended temporary closure. USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview. When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments due to the temporary office closure. You will receive a new appointment letter in the mail. Individuals who had InfoPass or other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public again. Please check to see if the office in your jurisdiction has been reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.
Education and precautions are the strongest tools against infection. Get the latest facts by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 website. Continue to practice good health habits, refrain from handshakes or hugs as greetings, and wash hands and clean surfaces appropriately.
USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance. Please also visit uscis.gov/coronavirus for updates.