The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) continue to extend flexibilities for immigration benefits and compliance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a list of COVID-19 flexibilities currently in place as of October 20, 2022.
Medical Exam Physician Signature Validity
USCIS normally requires that a civil surgeon’s signature on Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record be dated no more than 60 days before filing an application for immigration benefits, including Adjustment of Status. On December 9, 2021, USCIS suspended this requirement temporarily as an accommodation for COVID-19 related delays. USCIS recently announced that they are extending this temporary suspension of the 60-day requirement until March 31, 2023. This suspension does not change the limited 2-year validity of the medical exam.
Responses to Request for Evidence and Other Response Deadline Flexibilities
USCIS has extended COVID-19-related flexibilities related to the filing of USCIS requested documentation through Oct. 23, 2022. Under these flexibilities, USCIS considers a response received within 60 calendar days after the due date listed in the following requests or notices to be timely filed, if the request or notice was issued between March 1, 2020, and Oct. 23, 2022. These flexibilities apply to the following types of USCIS requests: 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; and Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant. USCIS should announce any further extensions on this response flexibility timeframe in the upcoming weeks.
I-9 Compliance Flexibilities
DHS has also extended certain COVID-19 flexibilities with respect to remote review of I-9 compliance documentation until July 31, 2023.
As of April 1, 2021, the requirement that employers inspect employees’ Form I-9 identity and employment eligibility documentation in-person applies only to those employees who physically report to work at a company location on any regular, consistent, or predictable basis.
If employees who were hired on or after April 1, 2021 work exclusively in a remote setting due to COVID-19 related precautions, they are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) under INA 274A. However, once a remote employee undertakes non-remote employment on a regular, consistent, or predictable basis, or this extension of the flexibilities related to such requirements is terminated (whichever event occurs first), the employer will be expected to perform a physical inspection of the documents as required.
In the event an employer is unable to timely inspect and verify, in-person, the Form I-9 supporting documents of employee(s) hired since March 20, 2020, as described above, they may memorialize the reason(s) for this inability in a memorandum. Such a memorandum must be retained with each affected employee’s Form I-9, to be evaluated by DHS ICE on a case-by-case basis, in the event of a Form I-9 audit.
Despite these Form I-9 flexibilities, employers may choose to commence the in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for employees who were hired on or after March 20, 2020.
While these remote document inspection flexibilities remain in place for now, DHS has ended a separate temporary policy that allowed for Form I-9 verification based on expired List B documents. As of July 31, 2022, employers must ensure that Forms I-9 are updated for any current employee who presented an expired List B document between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2022.
USCIS COVID Policy on Reproduced Signature Flexibilities is now a Permanent USCIS Policy
As of July 25, 2022, USCIS has incorporated its temporary COVID 19 signature flexibility policy as a permanent USCIS policy. This signature flexibility policy allows USCIS to accept scanned, faxed, photocopied or similarly reproduced signed documents, provided that the copy is of an original document containing an original handwritten signature.