Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has put new guidelines in place for visitors who wish to enter a USCIS facility. The new guidelines aim to create a safer environment for workers, applicants, and others present in or around their facilities.
Resuming Service After Closure
As of June 4, USCIS resumed its public services following a period of closure due to the spread of COVID-19. On March 18, the agency temporarily suspended all in-person services at its offices and support centers in an effort to prevent the virus’s spread. Since the closure and reopening, USCIS has set specific guidelines to help make sure that services can continue. At the same time, they are working to adhere to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As services begin reopening, USCIS will take the necessary precautions to keep everyone in USCIS facilities consistently safe. The key is to take certain steps that maintain the safety of workers and other occupants in these facilities. To help facilitate a transition to normality and enable in-person services, the USCIS has published in-depth guidelines for visitors.
Safety Guidelines for Gaining Entry into a USCIS Facility
To help protect everyone present in USCIS buildings, there are now strict guidelines in place for COVID-19 that visitors must follow before entering.
Individuals will be unable to enter a USCIS building if they:
- Display any symptoms of COVID-19, which could include coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, fatigue, or any changes in taste or smell that individuals might notice.
- Have been in close proximity to individuals who are suspected to have or are known to have the coronavirus within the last 14 days
- Have received instructions to self-isolate or self-quarantine from public health authorities, health care providers, or government agencies over the last 14 days.
- Are currently awaiting test results to confirm whether or not the individual is infected with COVID-19.
If they are allowed to enter, individuals are not permitted to enter the facility any earlier than 15 minutes before an appointment or 30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies. USCIS facilities will also provide hand sanitizer at various entry points as a safety precaution for all visitors
What Are the Guidelines for Masks?
To keep the public and the workforce safe from exposure to the coronavirus, the number-one precaution being taken for visitors is to make sure they wear proper face coverings. Every visitor over the age of 2 will need to wear them.
Specifically, visitors are required to wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth, and they must not consist of any bandanas, exhaust valves, or neck gaiters. Individuals without proper face coverings will either be denied entry and will need to reschedule their appointment, or workers may be able to provide a replacement mask if available.
Upon entering a facility, there will be certain physical barriers and markings present to help guide visitors and ensure they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Also, workers may direct people to briefly remove their face coverings for identity confirmation and photographs.
To further help avoid contamination, USCIS also encourages visitors to bring their own blue or black ink pens.
Prior to entering, visitors may also need to answer certain health-related questions to ensure that they aren’t infected or contagious.
Bringing People to an Appointment or Naturalization Ceremony
To adhere to social distancing guidelines and limit the number of occupants in waiting rooms, visitors may only be accompanied by an immigration attorney, an interpreter, a parent or legal guardian if the applicant is a minor, immediate family members who appear as dependents on applications or interview notices, and assistants for disabled applicants.
At this time, guests are not permitted at naturalization ceremonies. The only individuals allowed at these ceremonies will be the individuals undergoing naturalization and assistants to disabled candidates. During the naturalization ceremony, candidates and any assistants attending will need to wear face coverings, regardless of whether the ceremony takes place in or outside of a USCIS facility.
What to Do if Sick Before the Appointment
If individuals are feeling sick at any point leading up to their scheduled appointment, it’s important to avoid attending and reschedule the appointment. Keep in mind that there isn’t a penalty for individuals who need to reschedule their appointments if they are ill, regardless of the ailment.