“A crise vai passar,” the crisis will pass. Those are the words I hear over and over in the Brazilian and other immigrant communities, and it is true that this pandemic will pass. However, during the time of COVID-19, there have been many changes in immigration that affect the immigrant community, and these changes are likely to last longer than the pandemic.
First, all USCIS offices are closed until at least June 4, so no interviews for greencards or naturalization. The embassies and consulates are closed as well, so no one is receiving a visa. Immigration courts for non-detained cases are closed, too, until June 12, which for some immigrants is great news, but for others means they will wait months or even years for their hearing. Everything will be rescheduled, of course. But until then, everything is on hold.
Second, USCIS is now requiring the form I-944 Declaration of Self Sufficiency for all adjustments. This is a huge change. Before, a sponsor needed only provide an I-864 Affidavit of Support for their family members. Now, with the I-944, USCIS added a massive burden of time and documentation, requiring tax transcripts for household members, health insurance policies, proof of current income, prior employment history, a credit score and report for the immigrant, proof of English proficiency, education, and more to prove the immigrant will not become a “public charge.”
Third, the Trump Administration is using the COVID-19 pandemic to slow and even stop legal immigration. The April 22 Presidential Proclamation is just the start. Currently, it only affects immigrants overseas who don’t have an immigrant visa. The Proclamation is clearly not about protecting American workers; how does banning parents and siblings of U.S. citizens and the spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents save jobs? Remember also that President Trump said he is going to issue additional measures after 60 days. And he certainly will.
But now is not the time to be afraid. Now is the time to be steadfast, keep filing applications, and work intelligently. Even though USCIS offices are closed, USCIS Service Centers still operating, issuing work cards and processing cases. For immigrants who were anxious for their day in Court, Motions can be filed to move rescheduled hearings to an earlier date. Immigrants with weak cases have gained time to build a stronger case, or hope for a favorable change in the law or even a new, kinder President. Regarding the I-944, our office is already filing these, and it is a good time to do so. USCIS officers are still learning how to adjudicate these forms, so they are likely to not judge too harshly, and early applicants will be better able to argue their case. And for the Proclamation, being bold will pay dividends. With the Trump Administration looking to ban additional classes of immigrants and nonimmigrants over the next few months, the sooner applications are filed, the better.
In this time of change and uncertainty, our team is here to help. We are still scheduling consultations by Whatsapp, Facetime, Skype, and phone. And once our office is allowed to reopen, we can’t wait to see our current and future clients again and represent you in your immigration journey.
If you need legal advice, or would like to review your immigration options, please contact our office at (610) 664-6271 or visit our website to schedule a consultation.
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