It is incredible how much the world has changed in a week. As cities and states continue to issue a range of “shelter in place” orders and as public health concerns over COVID-19 continue to grow, immigration professionals are scrambling to shift their practices and operations to work from home. While a growing number of USCIS and consular offices have suspended routine in-person services, many hearings in immigration courts will continue as scheduled. EOIR is requiring attorneys and clients to appear with their own protective gear (despite a worldwide shortage), and there is no move being made to release people locked in detention centers where the risk of outbreak remains high. At the same time, many foreign nationals continue to have Request For Evidence (RFE) due dates and status expirations approaching – and passing – with no accommodation from the Service, despite the fact that the Supreme Court, IRS, SEC, SSA, EPA, HUD, many other agencies and courts have already enacted automatic extensions of important deadlines.
With that being said, USCIS has made an announcement last week that they will allow copy signature on petition filings, opposed to “wet” original signatures. If you or your loved one has a pending immigration matter, or a biometrics appointment, is set to leave the country upon the upcoming expiration of his/her status, or there is an RFE response due, now is the time you should be strategizing with your immigration counsel. Despite the best efforts of the immigration community around the nation, these deadlines are not to be ignored or disregarded due to the pandemic. We wish you all to stay safe and well!