USCIS Interviews During COVID Pandemic

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How have interviews changed at USCIS in light of coronavirus? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. In this video, we’re going to talk about what has changed and what has not changed at USCIS as they start handling interviews for immigration benefits after the coronavirus.

Now it’s a very, very strange time to be an immigration lawyer. It’s a very, very strange time, obviously, to be an immigrant in the United States. We have people who are stuck in the United States who can’t leave because of coronavirus. We have people who are stuck outside the United States who can’t come back or can’t get a visa to the United States because of the coronavirus. So it really is a strange time to be thinking about immigration land and all the things that go on at immigration. So it’s sort of hard for me to parse out what happens because of coronavirus, what happens because Trump has these directives to USCIS to deny as many cases as possible. So it really is just a strange time to be thinking about USCIS and about what’s different.

But at the interviews themselves, they obviously are very much concerned about the safety of everybody, both the safety of the officers and the safety of the applicants. And I don’t know if they’re really concerned about the safety of the lawyers, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. But to the interviews that I’ve been in, and I’ve been in interviews in different cities since the corona cases subsided a little bit, and the offices started to reopen, you’re going to find, obviously, everyone’s going to wear a mask during the interview. The officer might ask you to take off your mask to do a biometrics picture, and then you’re also going to have a glass between you and the officer.

And so each office handles it differently. I went to an interview in Virginia, and they’re very rigid about who they let in. They’re not letting people in early, you can’t go in and get settled in. You just are going to get called in, in most places, 15 minutes before your interview, they’re going to let you into the office. It depends, too, if the office is a standalone building versus a government building. So most buildings now have either a separate entrance for USCIS, or if it’s just a standalone USCIS building, the security guards are being careful about who they let in, so that’s sort of one thing.

The officers are still taking documents, so that part’s the same. So if you’re bringing in additional marital evidence, or if you’re bringing your medical exam, they’re taking that kind of stuff. The interviews, in all honesty, seem to be going more quickly, but they’re actually starting later, if that makes sense. So one of the things aside from the coronavirus is that the administration has really cut the funding for third party contractors who did a lot of the preliminary review of the applications and sort of put them in order for the officer. So the officers are getting their cases sort of at the last minute. They’re, I think, sometimes a jumbled mess and the officer’s going to have to scramble to get ready for the interview. So we haven’t seen more requests for evidence after the interview because usually the officers weren’t ready.

It’s a very, very strange time. It’s a strange time to be seeing how they do their jobs. We’re seeing that cases just seem messier. Obviously we’re getting slower approvals right out of the box. It’s just a big, old mess and that’s, of course, all by design. They want to starve immigration, the whole immigration system. They don’t want any immigrants here so they’re doing, in a regulatory and a procedural way, what they can’t do legislatively. What do I mean by that? Well, they can’t get Congress to stop legal immigration in the United States. So they’re just taking a hatchet and an ax to the immigration service itself and trying to just make life, as I say often, as unhappy and as terrible for immigrants as they possibly can.

So hopefully this video makes sense. Hopefully you figured out that while things change, they do sometimes also stay the same. If you have any questions, give us a call, 314-961-8200. You can email us at info at Hacking Law Practice dot com. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. And if you liked this video, we ask that you please share it out on social so that you get updates whenever we make videos, just like this one. Thanks a lot and have a great day.

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