On March 27, 2020 and March 30, 2020, USCIS announced limited help to employers facing requests for evidence (RFE) and notices of intent to deny (NOID) during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The announcement will permit employers who receive an RFE, NOID, Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR), Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT), or appealable decision within AAO jurisdiction dated (i.e. issued) between March 1 and May 1, 2020 to submit a response within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the notice.
While ostensibly designed to assist employers facing workflow and service issues, USCIS’ announcement is limited to notices or AAO appealable decisions which have been issued between March 1 and May 1, 2020. For instance, RFEs issued during this time period will not have due dates for approximately eighty-seven (87) days, or, in other words, none of these RFEs will have due dates until after the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is expected to dissipate. Some NOIDs, NOIRs, NOITs, and AAO appealable decisions issued between March 1 and May 1, 2020 will also be due during that time period because those notices generally require a response within approximately 30 days after issuance. However, NOIDs, NOIRs, NOITs, and AAO appealable decisions issued towards the ends of the March 1 to May 1, 2020 window will not be due until after May 1, 2020. Therefore, this announcement by USCIS largely does not affect employers who may be struggling to respond to these notices which are due anytime between March 1 and May 1, 2020, which is the time period wherein many employers are affected by stay-at-home or similar state and local orders.
Furthermore, it appears that, as a result of this policy, USCIS will not be adjudicating any responses to these notices until after sixty (60) calendar days have elapsed after the response due date. This indicates a surge in workflow for USCIS in late summer and early fall, as USCIS would also be adjudicating H-1B cap petitions in that same time period.
This announcement by USCIS follows several others due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the suspension of premium processing, the acceptance of electronic signatures in lieu of wet signatures, and the closure of USCIS’ offices in the U.S. and worldwide.