USCIS Extends COVID-19 Accommodations on RFEs, NOIDs, Appeals, and Other Responses Through October 23, 2022; Makes COVID-Era Signature Policy Permanent
Due to the continuing COVID-19 emergency, USCIS is extending its deadline extension policy through October 23, 2022. Petitioners and applicants will continue to have an additional 60 days to respond to requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny or revoke, notices of intent to terminate EB-5 regional investment centers, and certain other notices dated between March 1, 2020 and October 23, 2022, inclusive. Employers and foreign nationals will also continue to have 90 days to file a Form I-290B appeal or motion or Form N-336 hearing request to reopen a USCIS decision that was issued between November 1, 2021 and October 23, 2022, inclusive. USCIS has also announced that it is making its COVID-era signature policy permanent. The policy permits “reproduced original signatures” to be submitted on forms, though the original form containing the “wet” signature must still be retained.
In its ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS is further extending its deadline extension policy for responses to various agency actions through October 23, 2022. The accommodations, which were initially announced in March 2020 as a means of minimizing negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been extended several times. They had most recently been scheduled to expire after July 25.
The agency has also announced that effective immediately, its COVID-era signature policy on “reproduced original signatures” is now permanent. According to the agency, it has been evaluating which COVID-era flexibilities can and should be adopted permanently, and the reproduced original signature policy was deemed to meet merit permanent adoption.
Agency response deadline accommodation extended through October 23, 2022
The USCIS response deadline accommodation will continue to be available to stakeholders responding to or filing the following:
- Requests for Evidence (RFE),
- Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID),
- Notices of Intent to Revoke or Rescind (NOIR),
- Notices of Intent to Terminate EB-5 Regional Investment Centers (NOIT),
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant;
- Form I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion; and
- Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings.
Applicants and petitioners who receive(d) an RFE, NOID, NOIR, NOIT, or N-14 dated between March 1, 2020 and October 23, 2022 (inclusive), will receive an additional 60 calendar days beyond the original response deadline in order to file a response with USCIS.
For USCIS decisions dated between November 1, 2021 and October 23, 2022 (inclusive), USCIS will grant 90 calendar days from the date of the decision (as opposed to 30 days in most cases under standard rules) to file a Form I-290B appeal or motion or a Form N-336 hearing request.
Reproduced original signature policy now permanent
In today’s announcement, USCIS has also made permanent its COVID-era reproduced original signature policy. Starting today, the agency will indefinitely continue to accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.
This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy is of an original document containing an original handwritten signature (unless otherwise specified). Individuals or entities that submit documents bearing a reproduced original signature must also retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature, and USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents. USCIS policy continues to prohibit acceptance of “e-signatures” or images of a signature overlaid on a government form in lieu of an original signature or copy of an original signature.
What this means for employers and foreign nationals
The extended agency response deadlines should continue to temporarily mitigate the pressure on employers and foreign nationals to respond to inquiries or file appeals with USCIS while U.S. businesses continue to be disrupted, U.S. workforces continue to work remotely, and stakeholders continue to experience increasing delays and non-receipt of correspondence from USCIS Service Centers. As a reminder, this accommodation does not affect applications for extensions of stay or employment authorization. These applications must continue to be timely filed.
Employers and foreign nationals will also benefit permanently from the USCIS signature flexibility policy, which most have become accustomed to since the beginning of the COVID emergency. Stakeholder obligations remain the same with respect to the policy, including their required retention of all original forms with their original “wet” signature.