U.S. Immigration Developments March 2020: USCIS Closes Northern Border With Canada, Suspends Local Office Operations and Suspends H-1B Premium Processing

March 19, 2020

On March 18, the President ordered that by mutual consent, with the government of Canada, our country will close its northern border to non-essential traffic. The President confirmed that trade will not be affected. Details will be forthcoming.

Due to the rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a suspension of operations and temporary closure of its District offices, Application Support Centers and Immigration Court hearings. On March 17, it announced the immediate suspension of routine in-person services until April 1, at the earliest, to assist in reducing the dissemination of the coronavirus throughout the country.

This suspension encompasses interviews related to adjustment of status, citizenship interviews, biometrics appointments, asylum hearings and court hearings (for those not in detention). USCIS confirmed that it will notify applicants impacted by these closures by mail or email regarding the rescheduling of appointments.

USCIS also announced it will suspend premium processing for H-1B cap-subject filings submitted, commencing April 1. This move is not unprecedented. It has suspended the premium processing of H-1B cap filings for the past two cap filing seasons in 2018 and 2019. The agency confirmed it would resume premium processing in a two-phased approach so that it could manage the volume of petitions filed. It will resume premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree ("master's cap exemption") and F1 students requesting a change of status, no later than May 27. For other non-master's cap H-1B filings, it will resume processing no later than June 29. Premium processing remains available for all other H-1B petition submissions, including H-1B cap-exempt submissions and all other non-immigrant visa petition submissions.

USCIS continues to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public including, but not limited to, case review, adjudication, receipt and approval notice issuance. It appears that remote Service Center filings and adjudications are continuing as usual for the majority of cases.

A link to the USCIS website can be found here.

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