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Immigration Law Cases and COVID-19

By Maddy Teka, Esq. on March 26, 2020 7:32 AM

COVID-19 has become an unprecedented pandemic, making it a confusing and frightening time for most Americans. This fear, however, is much worse for non-citizens, particularly those who have pending cases and whose status in the U.S. is not secure.

This article provides resources for non-citizens with pending cases as they navigate life in the time of COVID-19.

Asylum Interviews

Asylum offices are temporarily closed to the public. If you have an interview scheduled during this period, you will get a cancellation notice, and your interview will be rescheduled once normal operations begin. Your case will likely have priority over other cases since rescheduled cases have priority for new interview dates.

If you have questions on the status of your case, you can email your asylum office. You can use the USCIS asylum office locator to find which email address to use.

Other USCIS Cases

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has, for now, canceled all in-person interviews. This means all naturalization oath ceremonies, biometric appointments, and other interviews will be canceled.

Note, however, that USCIS is still operating, and so you can file new cases and receive correspondence from their office. Decisions are also being mailed to your address instead of you having to pick them up at the USCIS office. You should, therefore, make sure your address remains updated.

Cases Pending Before the Immigration Court

The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) handles detained and non-detained immigration court cases. EOIR has recently announced that most immigration courts will be closed, and all non-detained cases will be postponed at least through April 10th. When the office is planning to reschedule cases, it is not known.

You can check online if your hearing will still take place if your case is scheduled after April 10th. You can also call 800-898-7180 and follow the prompts. Note, you will need your alien number at hand before you make the call.

Work Permits

Am I able to apply for or renew my work permit? This is one of the biggest concerns for non-citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that you can apply for your permit (both new applications and renewals) so long as you satisfy the requirements for getting a work permit.

Traveling Outside the U.S

The State Department has issued an advisory discouraging all U.S citizens from traveling abroad. The President also issued multiple proclamations suspending entry to immigrants and nonimmigrants coming from COVID-19 affected areas. So, traveling at this time may have a number of risks for nonimmigrants.

Unemployment Benefits

If you have a valid work permit, and you lose your job because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits provided you satisfy the eligibility requirements. Make sure to research your state laws, as the details vary by state. FindLaw.com also has ample resources on the eligibility requirements and how you can apply for unemployment benefits.

You may also be eligible to apply for other benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and other federally assisted programs.

Other Useful Resources

If you still have questions or have a pending case, its best to speak to an immigration attorney to get the assistance you need. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) also has many resources that can aid immigrants in getting useful information and guidance on legal issues concerning COVID-19 and how it will affect immigrants.

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