Even before the pandemic, substantial wait times were some of the biggest challenges of the immigration process. USCIS places annual caps on most immigration benefits, resulting in delays that last months, years, or even decades for some applicants. COVID-19-related office closures and other restrictions threaten to worsen these delays for everyone involved.
Fortunately, our team at The Sekou Clarke Law Group has anticipated these additional challenges and is working tirelessly to develop workarounds. We understand how urgent your immigration issue may be, and we want to help you accomplish your goals as soon as possible.
Here are 7 ways you may be able to minimize delays in your immigration process:
- Begin as soon as possible. The sooner you begin your application or petition process, the sooner you will receive a decision. The COVID-19 situation is developing rapidly, and there is always a possibility that more courts will close or agencies will suspend additional services. Urgency is more important now than ever before.
- Submit an expedite request. If you file an application or petition, you may be able to expedite the adjudication process—even if premium processing for your form has been suspended. USCIS approves expedite requests on a case-by-case basis, and you must demonstrate one or more of the following factors as a basis of your request: USCIS error, urgent humanitarian reasons, U.S. government interests, or severe financial loss if your process isn’t expedited.
- Request an emergency appointment. As with expedite requests, USCSIS reviews requests for emergency appointments on a case-by-case basis. We can help you determine whether USCIS may consider your matter an emergency. If so, we can assist you with the appointment request.
- Be mindful of deadlines. If your visa will expire soon, do not wait to extend it or reapply. Options like Satisfactory Departure allow you to extend your stay up to 30 days, but you must request this before your period of lawful stay is over. Additionally, USCIS has extended deadlines for requests to appeal and responses to certain notices (e.g. Requests for Evidence or Notices of Intent to Deny), but we urge you to only take advantage of these extensions if you have no other choice. Both appeals and responses to notices require immediate action.
- Take advantage of opportunities to explain special situations. Natural catastrophes, unforeseeable financial crises, and other emergencies could have caused your failure to appear in court, respond to a notice, submit documents before a deadline, or leave the U.S. in a timely manner. You may be able to cite COVID-19 as the reason for any of the above issues, and USCIS may excuse your delay.
- Stay on top of notices from USCIS. Interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and other appointments will likely be automatically rescheduled due to COVID-19, but you are responsible for following up with USCIS if you don’t receive notice of your new appointment.
- Work closely with our legal team to prevent errors and avoidable delays. While you may feel you don’t have the time to work with an attorney and closely review your application, this extra care is the most effective method of avoiding unnecessary delays. The smallest mistakes in a petition or application can result in a Request for Evidence or an outright denial. A rushed application invites issues and, as a result, substantial delays.
While you may not be able to receive a visa or green card as soon as you would like, these 7 strategies can help you minimize delays and maximize efficiency. With a matter as critical as your immigration goal, there is no harm in taking as many steps and precautions as possible to improve this process.
Contact The Sekou Clarke Law Group for Additional Assistance
Are you concerned about how long it may take to obtain the immigration benefit you need? Let The Sekou Clarke Law Group answer your questions and address your concerns. Our immigration attorneys in Florida & New York will be proud to serve as your zealous advocates during and after the COVID-19 crisis. If there is a way to increase the efficiency of your immigration process, we can find and implement it with ease—even during the pandemic.