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USCIS Policy Changes in response to COVID-19

Sara Divyak
Director of Client Services

Two USCIS policy changes affecting Premium Processing and Required Signatures

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for I-129 and I-140 petitions

Effective today, March 20, 2020 until further notice, USCIS will not accept new requests for premium processing due to the COVID-19 virus. USCIS will process petitions with a previously accepted Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, in accordance with the premium processing service criteria (i.e. you have received a Receipt Notice/Number). Petitioners who have already filed a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, or Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, using the premium processing service and who have not yet received any agency action on their case within the 15-calendar-day period will receive a refund. This temporary suspension includes petitions filed for the following categories:

  • I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.
  • I-140: EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3.

In light of this urgent change, we recommend the following measures during this time:

  • Filing all visa extensions as soon as possible in order to maintain work authorization. For most non-immigrant visas, this can be done 6 months in advance of the expiration date. 
  • Also, please note that once a petition has been timely filed, an automatic 240 day work authorization extension may be applicable for many non-immigrant visas (CW-1, H-1B, H-1B1, H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3, R-1, TN, A3, E-1, E-2, E-3, G-5, and I). 
  • We also recommend beginning PERM and I-140 processes as soon as possible, and filing dependent extensions and employment authorization document applications (EAD) concurrently with primary applications. 

While some employees are able to begin work upon physical receipt of certain petitions to USCIS, many prefer to begin on petition approval. Please note that this announcement will delay the issuance of such approvals, and start dates may need to be pushed into the future. For current Form I-129 and I-140 processing times, please visit the Case Processing Times page and the H-1B page on the USCIS website.

 

USCIS Announces Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures During COVID-19 National Emergency

USCIS also announced today that, “due to the ongoing COVID-19 National Emergency, all forms and documents will be accepted with reproduced original signatures, This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified. 

For forms that require an original “wet” signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.


Individuals or entities that submit documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature must also retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature.  USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents, which if not produced, could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.”

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.

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