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Update on Our Services in Response to COVID-19

Updated May 15, 2020

Our office remains operational. Some of our staff are working remotely, and we are not meeting with clients in person in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

We are available by phone, video conferencing, email, and of course regular mail. Please feel free to contact us at any time!

We want to reassure you that at this difficult time we continue to work on your cases and move them forward. While some government agencies have suspended their services (see below), many deadlines are still applicable and we will meet those deadlines.

Below are some updates about government services:

Immigration in the Time of COVID-19

Immigration Courts

The New Orleans Immigration Court is postponing all non-detained hearings (both merits hearings and master calendar hearings) through June 12, 2020. The Court will re-schedule these hearings in the future. The New Orleans Immigration Court is still open for filings.

Please note that court clerks continue to process new Notices to Appear, so continue to check the Immigration Court hotline (1-800-898-7180) regarding the status of your case.

USCIS Offices

USCIS public offices, including the Field Offices, Asylum Office, and the Application Support Centers, are closed through June 3, 2020. This includes interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and fingerprint appointments. USCIS will re-schedule these appointments when it reopens its public offices.

At this time, USCIS regional service centers continue to operate and are processing filed cases. Premium processing, however, has been suspended.

ICE Offices

ICE offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge are closed for check-ins until May 15, 2020. Please do not rush to check-in on May 18, 2020. If you need to contact an immigration officer in the meantime, please call 504-599-7800. Please note that this information relates to the New Orleans and Baton Rouge ICE offices only; if you need information about another ICE office, please contact our office.

Subsequent to May 15, 2020, individuals should contact their local field office for additional guidance prior to their scheduled appointment.

In addition, ICE has announced that it is not undertaking arrests in hospitals at this time.

Consular Offices

The State Department announced that it is suspending routine visa services in most countries worldwide.

Embassies and consulates in these countries are canceling all routine visa appointments. At this time, we do not know when consulates will re-open for
consular processing.

Please note that individuals who leave the U.S. with expired visas will in most instances not be able to renew visas at this time. Individuals leaving the United States with expired visas should be ready to remain abroad indefinitely.

Public Charge

Please note that any health service that you take advantage of related to COVID-19 will not be considered in deciding whether you are a public charge. Therefore, all immigrants should take advantage of any testing, screening, or treatment available to the general public without fear of that affecting their immigration application even if the health service is provided free to the public or paid for by Medicaid.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who have a right to work and who have earned sufficient hours over the past several work quarters. You are eligible for unemployment benefits only if you have a current work permit or have been granted asylum. Please note that receipt of unemployment benefits does not affect whether USCIS will consider you a public charge.

Foreign Travel

Countries around the world have been affected by COVID-19. Many countries have closed their borders to foreign arrivals. In response, many airlines have limited international flights. In addition, travel to certain countries may delay and complicate your re-entry into the United States due to U.S. government restrictions. Due to the suspension of routine consular services, it is very likely that you will NOT be able to obtain a new visa if you leave the U.S. with a visa that is expired. This could result in your absence from the U.S. for an indefinite period. If you plan to travel internationally, please contact your attorney first, to ensure that you will be admitted to the foreign country or allowed to return to the United States.

Address Changes

As always, it is essential to update USCIS and the immigration court, via your attorney if you are represented, if there is any change to your address or phone number. Failure to update your contact information could result in missing the notice rescheduling your hearing or interview and being ordered removed in your absence. Please notify our office immediately if you move!

We know this is a lot of information and we are here to help navigate you through the process. Please don’t hesitate to call us or email us with general questions at info@peltonbalducci.com.

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