Video – The Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Immigration & Road to the Green Card


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a variety of government policies introduced that impact U.S. immigration-related government functions. These policies are everchanging as a result of the unpredictable nature of COVID-19. However, the below list includes a summary of the recent changes that will impact immigration policy across the U.S. We advise all clients with travel plans over the next three months to closely monitor travel restrictions as these restrictions have been changing with little-to-no notice. Our firm will continue to provide up to date developments regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and policy changes.

  1. Changes to USCIS: All USCIS Offices will be closed to the public for public services until at least April 1, 2020. This includes USCIS Field Offices, Asylum Offices, Application Support Centers, and Naturalization Oath Ceremonies. In the event of an emergency, USCIS is providing emergency services through their Contact Center.


  2. Changes to Immigration Court: Access to courts is limited and all Master Calendar Hearings scheduled until at least April 10 have been rescheduled across the country. It is likely that this will apply to Individual Calendar Hearings as well in the coming days. As of March 18th, all non-detained hearings have been postponed in Atlanta Peachtree, Charlotte, Houston Gessner, Louisville, Memphis, New York City (Broadway and Federal Plaza), Newark, Sacramento, and Los Angeles Olive Immigration Courts until at least April 10.


  3. Changes to Consular Offices: Many consulates are suspending non-emergency visa services. For any emergent travel needs, please refer to your consulate’s guidance regarding emergency visa appointments.


  4. Travel Restrictions:
    1. Travel Bans
      1. President Trump issued a proclamation on March 11, 2020 restricting travel to the U.S. for individuals who traveled to the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) in the last 14 days. This was later extended on March 14, 2020 to include the United Kingdom and Ireland. Please note that this ban is in addition to existing travel bans from Mainland China (January 31, 2020) and Iran (February 29, 2020).


      2. The following are exempt from the travel ban:
        1. U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents;
        2. Spouses of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents;
        3. Parents or legal guardians of U.S. Citizens of Lawful Permanent Residents, provided that the child is unmarried and under the age of 21;
        4. Siblings of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents, provided both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
        5. Children who are under the legal custody of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents; and
        6. Other certain foreign government and health officials


      3. Those exempt from the travel bans and are traveling to the U.S. will be redirected to one of 13 designated airports: JFK, ORD, SFO, SEA, HNL, LAX, ATL, IAD, EWR, DFW, DTW, BOS and MIA.


      4. The President has explained that on April 11, 2020, officials will reassess COVID-19 travel bans.


    2. ESTA Cancellation for Individuals Attempting to Circumvent Travel Bans
      1. Travelers with valid ESTA who are subject to the travel bans and attempt to travel to the U.S. in violation of the travel ban will have their ESTA cancelled. Should ESTA be cancelled, applicants will be permitted to reapply in the future.


  5. ESTA Extensions (Satisfactory Departure): Individuals admitted under VWP/ESTA through JFK or Newark Airports and are unable to depart the U.S. before their current period of admission will end due to issues related to COVID-19 can contact the Deferred Inspections office at JFK Monday-Friday from 9 AM until 4 PM to request Satisfactory Departure for up to 30 days. Please note that this only applies to those individuals whose period of stay will expire in 14 days or less from the day he or she contacts Deferred Inspections.