In the age of coronavirus, policies imposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are making it difficult for businesses, high-skilled professionals and others to file applications and meet deadlines. Attorneys say that although USCIS has made one positive accommodation their clients deserve policies that better take into account the new health and safety realities of doing business under social distancing, remote work and USCIS office closures.
In general, USCIS policies are years behind and have not adapted to the modern work environment, which has become more evident in the face of worldwide concerns about coronavirus. A glaring example, attorneys say, is USCIS still does not permit electronic filing for the most commonly used employment-based forms.
While USCIS service centers continue to operate, many businesses are following the recommendations of health experts and have moved to remote work. Paper-based applications and hard copy checks to pay filing fees are still required for most employment-based petitions. Vic Goel, managing partner of Goel & Anderson, said USCIS has not indicated it will relax or grant leniency on required filing dates and Requests for Evidence (RFE) response dates.
“Employers and law firms are straining to maintain paper-based processes while working remotely,” said Goel in an interview. “Particularly in areas where people have been told to temporarily close, as in California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, it has become difficult to comply with USCIS requirements and meet filing deadlines.”
On March 20, 2020, USCIS made an accommodation welcomed by attorneys and employers by relaxing the requirement to obtain “wet” signatures on forms. “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,” USCIS said in a statement. “This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.”
By Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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