2020 Planned Closures of USCIS Field Offices

USCIS is continuing with the planned closure of 13 US international field offices and 3 district offices by August 2020.

USCIS operated 23 international offices in 20 countries around the globe. While it had previously advised of plans to close all of its international offices by March 2020, USCIS confirmed in a statement last summer that seven international field offices are to remain open and operational.

The offices to remain open and unaffected by the closures are:

  • Beijing, China
  • Guangzhou, China
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • New Delhi, India
  • Guatemala City, Guatemala
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • San Salvador, El Salvador

Closures have already taken effect in:

  • Athens, Greece
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Port-au-Prince, Haiti
  • Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Manila, Philippines
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Bangkok, Thailand

The remaining international offices are expected to close by August 2020:

  • Amman, Jordan
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Rome, Italy (district office)
  • Accra, Ghana
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Mexico City, Mexico (district office)
  • Lima, Peru
  • Bangkok, Thailand (district office)

 

What do the closures mean for US immigration applications?

The move will impact petitions typically processed by field offices outside the US.

According to USCIS, work currently performed at these USCIS international offices will be conducted “electronically or absorbed… domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad” and that the Department of Security (DOS) “will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices”.

The USCIS Ciudad Juarez Field Office, for example, now directs individuals to file I-130 petitions with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, or under exceptional circumstances with a US Embassy or consulate. It is, however, unclear how USCIS would determine exceptional circumstances cases.

Offices will stop accepting applications and forms in advance of the closures, such as I-130 petitions for immediate relatives (spouses, minor unmarried children under 21, and parents).While there is no indication of the specific timelines, petitioners should note that offices which have already closed had stopped accepting I-130 petitions several weeks before formal closure.

Wide-ranging implications

The impact of the closures should not be underestimated.

USCIS’s international offices provide a range of immigration services critical to non-US nationals filing US immigration petitions from overseas as well as US citizens and their families living, working, and serving abroad. In particular, applications for US citizenship and permanent residence and other immigration categories have typically relied heavily on the support of the field offices.

While USCIS has attributed the decision to cost-saving and redeploying resources to in-country processing, immigration groups such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have cited concerns that Americans, their families, American businesses, immigrants and refugees will all face greater petitioning challenges in entering or returning to the US and in keeping their families together as a result of the closures.

Employers, in particular, will need to consider how the changes will affect their processes and management of US applications to avoid operational disruption, ensure cost control and minimize the risk of processing errors, delays and refusals when deploying personnel to the US.

If you are concerned about the closures and the impact on US immigration application processing, please contact us.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: January 14, 2020