COVID-19 US Immigration Update February 2021

Relaxed Form I-9 compliance further extended

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, relaxed compliance requirements relating to Form I-9 will continue to be permitted until March 31, 2021.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed the extension of the temporary measure on January 28, 2021.

Under the temporary employment eligibility verification compliance requirements, employers operating remotely are permitted to review identity and employment authorization documents remotely, such as by video, fax, or email. Physical inspections can be deferred until after normal operations are resumed.

Timings for completion of the I-9 have not been changed: section 1 must be completed by the employee’s start date, and section 2 must be completed within three business days of the start date.

The temporary policy will not apply where employees are physically reporting to a place of work, instead, standard, in-person I-9 compliance requirements continue to apply when checking identity and employment eligibility documentation.

USCIS extends COVID-19 accommodations

USCIS has confirmed it is extending its 60-day deadline extension for responses to RFEs, NOIDs, appeals and other responses through March 31, 2021.

Originally introduced in March 2020, the temporary measure had been set to expire in September last year. However, in light of the continued challenges of the pandemic, USCIS has extended the accommodations on multiple occasions.

The temporary provision continues to apply when responding to or filing the following:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional centers; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA), if:

  • The form was filed up to 60 calendar days from the issuance of a decision USCIS made; and
  • USCIS made that decision anytime from March 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021.

Importantly, this accommodation does not affect applications for extensions of stay or employment authorization. These applications must continue to be timely filed.

Applicants and petitioners who receive(d) an RFE, NOID, NOIR, NOIT, or Notice of Intent to Rescind dated between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 (inclusive), will receive an additional 60 calendar days beyond the original response deadline in order to file a response with USCIS.

For adverse USCIS decisions dated between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 (inclusive), USCIS will grant 60 days from the date of the decision (as opposed to 30 days in most cases under current rules) to file a Form I-290B appeal or motion or a Form N-336 hearing request.

US-Canada & US-Mexico land border closures further extended

The US-Mexico and US-Canada land border closures are to remain effective until February 21, 2021, due to ongoing pandemic concerns.

This is a 30-day extension of the existing closure, which has been in place since March 2020 and has now been subject to successive monthly extensions.

The following rules continue to apply for the period of the closure:

  • Non-essential travel is not permitted across the land borders.
  • Travel for reasons of work, education, medical treatment, public health and legal cross-border trade are permissible.
  • Travel by US citizens and US permanent residents returning to the US is also allowed.

Other exemptions may also apply, and may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The closure will be reviewed again in 30 days.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on US immigration policy and application processing.

As the situation continues to develop, please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

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

Last updated: February 3, 2021.