For immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees

We are all very worried about the coronavirus. But if you are an immigrant, a refugee, or an asylum seeker in the USA, you may have extra worries. This page addresses some of the topics that are important to immigrant communities. You will also find the latest updates on ICE, USCIS, and other immigration changes because of COVID-19.

What is worrying you?

Updates and changes because of COVID-19

There have been changes and closures in the US immigration system because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are updates for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers:

  • In October 2020, a judge stopped a government order that was made in June. The order had banned most visas for people coming to work in the USA, including most health workers and people coming to work in restaurants and hotels for the tourist season. (It does not apply to farm workers or to people who already have visas.) The October ruling means that that many foreign workers and their US employers can again apply for H-1B, J, and L visas. The situation may change again. We will update this page when there is more information.
  • The US administration has issued an executive order to stop new immigration visas (green cards) from April 23, 2020. The order applies to people outside of the USA. Spouses and children under age 21 of US citizens will still be allowed to get visas. People who already have immigrant visas or valid travel documents can still come. SIVs and members of the US Armed Forces can still come.
  • In March 2020, USCIS canceled appointments and closed offices except for emergencies. USCIS opened some offices on June 4. Application Support Centers are not opening yet.
    • If your asylum interview was canceled, you will get a notice with a new appointment date.
    • If your citizenship ceremony was canceled, you will get a notice to set a new ceremony date.
    • If you had another interview that was canceled, you should receive a new appointment notice from your field office.
    • If you had an Infopass or other appointment, you need to re-schedule the appointment yourself when you field office is open. You will need to use the USCIS contact center.
    • USCIS has new rules at all offices to limit the spread of COVID-19. You must wear a mask and follow directions about social distancing.
    • Please read the USCIS coronavirus page for more information. about office openings, interviews and appointments.
  • USCIS says that healthcare for COVID-19 is not a public charge. And in July 2020, a federal judge in New York ruled that the public charge rule must not be used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the details.
  • USCIS says because of because of COVID-19, there are long delays in processing Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). USCIS announced in March 2020 that it will reuse biometrics it already has to process EAD extensions. In August 2020, USCIS said that a Form I-797 can be used as evidence of employment authorization for some categories until December 2020. The notice must be dated from December 1, 2019 to August 20, 2020. Read the details.
  • The US Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has closed many immigration courts except for detainee hearings. Stay up to date with EOIR changes.
  • The National Visa Center (NVC) will only respond to emergency inquiries. If you have a non-urgent inquiry, use the CEAC tool, but you may have difficulty getting a response.
  • ICE continues to make arrests, but ICE says it will not make arrests at health centers and hospitals. They have also postponed some in-person check-ins. Read what ICE says about enforcement on the ICE coronavirus information page.
  • Asylum seekers arriving at borders are being turned back. They are being returned to Mexico or to their home countries. This includes unaccompanied minors. Read asylum seeker updates.
  • On June 18, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said refugee travel will start again after it was stopped for three months because COVID-19. But the USA is still closed to refugees.

This information comes from trusted sources, such as USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security, HIAS, and CLINIC. USAHello does not give legal advice or medical advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal or medical advice. 

Do you have more questions about immigration? You can [email protected].