Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, agencies involved in the implementation and enforcement of immigration law have relaxed certain filing and other requirements.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, whose function is the adjudication of petitions, applications, and related filings, recently announced that it will make one of the COVID-related changes permanent – allowing copies of documents with original signatures to be submitted in lieu of the originals themselves.

The USCIS also extended through October 23 its policy to allow extra time for applicants, petitioners, and requestors to respond to certain actions of the agency.

Signature flexibility

In March 2020, the USCIS adopted a policy allowing documents to be “scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified.”

Effective July 25, this is now the USCIS’s permanent policy.

The announcement was welcome news to immigration attorneys, petitioners, and applicants. The process of obtaining an original signature from someone who could be anywhere in the world was challenging, to say the least.

Under this policy, the original signature page must be retained so that it can be provided to the USCIS upon request. Failure to produce the original when requested “could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.”

Extension of deadlines

The USCIS will also continue to apply, through October 23, the 60-day extension to deadlines applicable to responses to certain requests or notices. The 60-day extension applies to the following requests or notices, provided that they were issued any time from March 1, 2020, through October 23, 2022:

  • 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
  • Notices of Intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant

In addition, the USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, or a Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (under Section 336 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act) to be timely filed, if

  • The form was filed no later than 90 calendar days from the date of issuance of the decision being challenged, and
  • The decision was issued any time from November 1, 2021, through October 23, 2022.

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