USCIS Field Offices are Starting to Reopen

Erick Widman

Both USCIS and the U.S. State Department have dramatically slowed down the services they provide the past two months. Local field offices were only accessible for emergency services. Today, however, there are some positive baby steps in the right direction to report.

USCIS Field Office Partial Reopening

At the Portland, Oregon Field Office, starting today on June 4, some non-emergency in-person services have resumed, including green card interviews. Note, however, that USCIS has not started biometrics (fingerprint) appointments back up and its Application Support Center (ASC) is still closed. The best prediction is that ASC services will also resume in a few weeks.

USCIS will begin sending out appointment notices for green card, naturalization, and asylum interviews. In addition, they will start re-scheduling postponed oath ceremonies for naturalization cases. If you are a client of our law firm, we will email you a scanned copy of the notice as soon as we receive it from USCIS. You should also directly receive your own notice in the mail about the new appointment time.

Key Considerations for Entering the USCIS Field Office

Like many other organizations that have to balance both safety and efficiency, USCIS is implementing a number of new safety measures to deal with Covid. Please keep the following in mind for your next visit to a USCIS field office:

  • Visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they:
    • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
    • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points.
  • Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph. There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

Our Assessment

Overall, these are sensible measures for USCIS to take. However, it would make sense for everyone’s safety for USCIS to handle most interviews remotely using video technology. The technology exists and we should use it. For example, it is likely impossible to have six feet of distance within the offices of USCIS officers for green card and naturalization interviews.

Since the field offices just started opening up today we have not had the chance to experience these modified procedures due to Covid. But we’ll definitely keep you updated once our attorney Erick experiences an in-person interview at the local USCIS field office.

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