On March 18, 2020, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the nationwide closure of all its public offices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The global crisis is affecting countries all over the world, upending life on all corners of the globe, and EB-5 investors are also encountering disruptions in their U.S. visa process.
The closures apply to not only domestic USCIS offices but also all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. While they are still providing emergency services, they have suspended all routine visa services. Thus, EB-5 investors must put their EB-5 visa applications on hold until COVID-19 tapers off and the consulates reopen.
Originally, the closures were planned to continue until May 4, but with the pandemic continuing to rage on as the date neared, USCIS made a new announcement that it was extending the closures to June 4, 2020. Only time will tell whether USCIS really opens back up on June 4, but it’s worthwhile for EB-5 investors to prepare to set their visa journeys back in motion.
What’s important to note about the closures is that they only apply to procedures that involve face-to-face interaction with the public. Visa interviews and other in-person appointments must be rescheduled, but USCIS is still in operation, contactable by email or phone and providing remote services. Since the adjudication of petitions takes place behind closed doors, USCIS continues working hard to adjudicate I-526 petitions and I-829 petitions, among other EB-5-related petitions.
Also affecting EB-5 investors’ ability to immigrate to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic are the numerous travel restrictions around the world. EB-5 investors must keep abreast of the latest developments to determine whether they are permitted to enter the United States. While the temporary immigration suspension signed into law on April 22 does not affect EB-5 investors, other travel restrictions may.