Latest updates on USCIS response to COVID-19
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - April 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Here are some updates on the USCIS's response to the global pandemic:

1.) USCIS Field Offices closures have been extended until April 7, 2020 and possibly be extended further depending on how this situation unfolds in the next few weeks. Emergency appointments still remain an option for limited situations, you just need to schedule such appointments through the USCIS Contact Center.

2.) USCIS is adopting measures to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID) between March 1 and May 1, 2020. Any responses must be submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID and will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken. This gives the petitioner or applicant an additional 60 days from the deadline to comply with the response.

3.) Effective March 20, 2020, premium processing on I-140 and I-129 petitions were also temporarily suspended by USCIS. If you have mailed in these petitions with premium processing before March 20 but it wasn’t yet accepted by USCIS, it will return the filing fee and the form. Your main petition will still be accepted and processed.

4.) Effective March 21, 2020, USCIS began accepting forms and documents with reproduced original signatures. This means a document maybe scanned, faxed, or photocopied provided that the copy must be an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified.

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As all the corners of the planet are affected by COVID-19, let us all realize that no one was prepared for such a massive global health crisis in such a scale as this pandemic. Not even the most industrialized countries in the world with the most advanced technologies and robust healthcare system are spared from the rising confirmed cases and increasing mortality rates.

Here in the Philippines, it can be argued that the government may have been caught off-guard by the pace with which the virus stealthily reached us. While there may be valid criticisms against the administration on how the crisis is handled - its initial response, the lack of testing kits, the lack of laboratories to run the test results, creates a huge backlog that only promotes more delays, more potential human transmission and more potential positive cases. This also includes the VIP testing scandal, the persistent bureaucratic red tape and the initial uncoordinated approaches among local government units even within the same province.

There is a time of reckoning for all of these, but now isn’t the right time to rally in the streets. Our right to express our sentiments, negative those may be against the government and our leaders, are not lost even at the time of national emergency. However it should be balanced with what is right for the common good. We are governed by the elected officials that we have now. So until the next election comes along, we are stuck with them. It is obvious that our local leaders here in Cebu have been doing their very best to respond to this crisis. Let us also do our share.

On our part, we should obey the rules that are imposed even as simple as maintaining social distancing, adhering to the curfew hours and self-isolating when we feel sick. In response to this sacrifice demanded of us, we also expect that our leaders make not only the hard decisions for us but also those which are just, fair, equitable, and applicable to anyone and everyone regardless of prestige, status, or position.

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