USCIS Extends Deadlines for Certain Types of Immigration Cases

USCIS has been providing flexibility with some deadlines during the pandemic, but that was set to expire on September 11, 2020. USCIS has now provided a last minute extension, which will now apply to all listed requests that are issued between March 1 2020 and January 1, 2021. This should help people who are continuing to encounter problems in obtaining documents for their cases or who are otherwise having difficulty responding to the requests.

It’s important to note that the deadline is not extended until January 1st, but rather a 60 day extension will be automatically applied to the listed requests if they are issued between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021. Each individual request will have a different deadline and applicants should make an effort to respond within that extended deadline.

USCIS has stated that deadlines will be extended for:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant;
  • Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.


USCIS Launches SAVE Initiative Aimed at Sponsors of Immigrants

On September 10, USCIS announced that it was implementing a new initiative called SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements). This initiative is aimed at sponsors of immigrants, which usually includes family filing petitions as well as other individuals who complete affidavits of support at some point during the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident.

The initiative appears to have two goals: one, assisting other agencies with verifying income eligibility for benefits, and two, recovering money from sponsors who agreed to reimburse the government if the individual gets benefits.

Generally speaking, it is uncommon for lawful permanent residents to get benefits because they are not legally permitted to obtain many of the most common benefit types. If a resident does apply for benefits, the government wants to make sure their sponsor’s income is calculated as part of their own, rather than only considering just their income and household size. It is not clear to what extent agencies will actually use this data. It could result in increased benefit denial for those residents who do otherwise qualify for benefits.

It is not immediately clear to what extent the government is going to be increasing enforcement from affidavits of support. It appears seriously burdensome for the government to initiate lawsuits to recover money from sponsors, especially if the benefit amounts are relatively low. There is currently no automatic mechanism by which sponsors affirmatively support or reimburse anyone and the sponsorship requirement has largely been more of a legal requirement for completing the residency process since it was initiated.

More information about the SAVE program is available at

I-212 Conditional Waivers of Deportations, Advance Permission to Apply for Admission

waivers are key to many immigration cases

I-212 conditional waivers are a special type of waiver used in limited circumstances, rather than to forgive all deportations generally. The waiver essentially allows someone with an order of removal to get a pre-approval to return to the US despite a legal bar to reentry. It is somewhat uncommon and there are some significant exceptions where it may not be a good option for everyone.

What is the I-212 Conditional Waiver

The I-212 is a form used by applicants to requests various types of relief from immigration punishments, whether those are called “waivers” or “advance permission to reapply.” The essential part is that they allow a person to shorten or eliminate a punishment they have received, usually on the basis of having good behavior, a qualifying relative, and other positive factors.

In the I-212 conditional waiver context, applicants are requesting relief from an order of removal (often called deportation) which has not been executed. That means that a judge ordered that a person be removed but they were not actually removed. Other options may be available to someone who was actually removed.

The I-212 waiver allows someone to get permission in advance of their actual departure from the US (which triggers the actual punishment) to receive “consent to reapply for admission” and shorten their time abroad. This is one step in a multi-part process, which generally requires an I-130 family petition, an I-212 waiver, an I-601A waiver, and then consular processing.

The I-212 conditional waiver is established in 8 CFR Sec. 212.2(j), which reads:

“(j) Advance approval. An alien whose departure will execute an order of deportation shall receive a conditional approval depending upon his or her satisfactory departure. However, the grant of permission to reapply does not waive inadmissibility under section 212(a)(9)(A) of the Act resulting from exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings which are instituted subsequent to the date permission to reapply is granted.”

This conditional process was implemented by rule in 56 FR 23212 on May 21, 1991. After new unlawful presence bars were introduced, this conditional process was not always useful because the applicant would still be inadmissible and need a waiver abroad. It become more relevant following the introduction of the provisional unlawful presence waiver process, and later the Expansion of the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility which became effective on July 29, 2016. This rule describes the process and DHS’ reasons for implementing it in this way.

Deciding if the I-212 Conditional Process is the Correct One

It’s extremely important to understand the benefits and limitations of the I-212 conditional waiver process. When someone has an unexecuted order of removal, they are at risk of actually being detained and removed at any moment. Not everyone is going to enjoy the benefit of getting a waiver in these circumstances. Furthermore, the waiver does not waive everything. Many people have other problems that run alongside the issue solved by this process.

The ILRC has issued an excellent practice advisory that covers these topics in extensive detail, and which serves as a guide to figuring out whether the I-212 conditional process is the best one for a particular case. Some important considerations are:

  • What is the risk of detention and does the person have a plan if they are detained?
  • Was the person removed in-absentia, which would likely result in denial?
  • Are there other grounds of inadmissibility beyond a simple removal order and some unlawful presence, including criminal history, medical issues, smuggling, misrepresentation or fraud, false claims to citizenship, among others?
  • Does the applicant have good bona-fides and a realistic chance of approval?
  • Is the applicant willing to leave the US to consular process?

It is highly recommended to work with an immigration lawyer in cases like these because there are serious risks and technical challenges.

USCIS Memorandum on Changes to the DACA Program, Termination of Initial DACA Applications

Changes to the DACA Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

On August 24, 2020, USCIS made an announcement and issued a memorandum explaining how DACA initial and renewal applications will be treated going forward. For the most part, the new memorandum maintains the status quo we have been under for the last several years. There are some good and bad changes depending on the case, but the worst part is that USCIS will be rejecting and ending initial DACA applications, even when submitted before the date of the memorandum.

How Has the DACA Program Changed?

The memorandum lays out several important changes, listed here:

  • All initial DACA applications will be rejected, and refunded
  • USCIS will continue processing renewal requests
  • New work permits under DACA will be for one year, rather than two
  • USCIS will not revoke existing work permits for issues which changed based on this memorandum
  • Reject any I-131 advance parole requests for DACA recipients except in situations of exceptional circumstances
  • Any approved advance parole requests will be honored for the duration of their validity
  • USCIS will honor the information-sharing policy as set out in the DACA FAQ and Napolitano Memorandum
  • USCIS will be implementing a strict 150-day policy and not honoring renewal requests if they are submitted more than 150 days before the expiration date. USCIS recommends filing more than 120 days before the expiration date.
  • USCIS explicitly acknowledged that it attempts to approve DACA work permits closer to the expiration date of the prior DACA period, which is not a bad thing especially if they will only be issued for one year.

DACA Initial Applications Rejected

The worst news is that all the pending initial applications for DACA, especially following the Supreme Court’s decision and up to the date of the memo, are going to be rejected or terminated. This action is likely illegal. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, or perhaps a bit later, the only DACA guidance in effect has been the original 2012 memorandum and FAQ which established the program. USCIS has arbitrarily decided to simply sit on new DACA initial applications and not even to process the fees, much less the applications.

While USCIS does get to set certain rules, they cannot flout their own policy guidance. Those individuals who had filed DACA initial applications should consider bringing lawsuits under the Administrative Procedures Act. If the struggles of the Trump Administration has proven one thing, it’s that you can’t sit and wait for USCIS to make the right decision. The only way to force the government to obey the law is through Congress or the Courts. Congress is not likely to make any changes this year, and so it falls to individuals to bring lawsuits to protect their rights.

Advance Parole is Still Available

Some good news from the memo is that advance parole is still available, although the standard seems to be getting higher. USCIS notes that advance parole for those individuals who only have DACA is an “extraordinary privilege” and that they should be assessed in keeping with other parole requests under INA Sec. 212(d)(5), which is going to be higher than previous DACA advance parole standards. The memo mentions that employment, visiting family, and vacation are not valid reasons. Some examples of valid reasons include:

  • Travel to support national security and federal law enforcement interests
  • Travel to obtain essential life-supporting medical treatment not available in the US
  • Travel to support the immediate safety, well-being, or care of an immediate relative, but especially minor children

From Marriage to Green Card: How the Family Immigration Process Works

Austin Family Immigration Lawyer Joseph Muller

Many people assume that being married to a US Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) will allow them to get green cards as well. Fortunately, many people are able to become residents through marriage, but not everyone. This article discusses some of the common situations that might come up in these circumstances. Every case is different, though, and there’s no reason not to schedule a free immigration consultation to review a specific case.

Green Cards Through Marriage to US Citizens

Marriage to US Citizens often results in the simplest process. This is because the law provides several special benefits to spouses of US Citizens, including immediate visa availability, less strict rules about unlawful presence in the US as well as unauthorized employment, and the ability to adjust status even without lawful status.

Visas are available to spouses of green card holders immediately because they are classified as “immediate relatives.” Simply put, immediate relatives don’t have to wait for a visa (they do still have to wait for the government to process their paperwork). The downside is that they cannot include a derivative in their own application. This sometimes results in confusion when a US Citizen files a petition for a spouse but not their children. Including the names of children in a petition does not necessarily mean they are included as derivatives. Each immediate relative must have their own I-130 family petition.

Less strict rules also make the process more simple. The spouse of a US Citizen can get a green card even if they are unlawfully present in the US (typically by overstaying a visa), worked without authorization, and are not currently in lawful status. Spouses of residents don’t get these important benefits. This is not to say that all immigration punishments are forgiven against spouses of US Citizens, as there are many situations where a spouse might need a waiver or might be completely ineligible.

One common situation that can prevent a spouse from becoming a resident in the US is having entered without permission. In most cases, to adjust status and become a permanent resident, a person must show an entry with inspection and admission. They must usually present a visa or valid I-94 at the border and then be permitted to enter. If they didn’t they will want to review the options with an experienced attorney. Some people are eligible through the existence of an old petition, eligibility for Parole in Place for family of military members or veterans, and some other less common options.

If these exceptions don’t apply, most spouses need to consider consular processing, which involves finishing the process outside the United States. In many cases, people need to obtain a waiver before they can be given a visa and return to the United States as a resident. It’s always important to review waiver cases due to the risk of being stuck outside the US.

Green Cards Through marriage to Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders)

Another common situation is that a lawful permanent resident will marry and want to file for their spouse. These cases often get more complicated because spouses of lawful permanent residents are not given the same rules as spouses of US Citizens. The top problems are visa availability delays, unlawful presence, unlawful status, and unauthorized employment. One common strategy is to try and get the resident to naturalize and become a US Citizen, if eligible.

Spouses of residents are under the visa bulletin category “F2A” which is named after the section of the law describing the different categories. At this moment, F2A is current, meaning that visas are available already. In prior years, the delay has been around a two year wait. This means that people had to wait over two years simply for the visa, not to mention the other delays in immigrant visa processing. If there is a waiting period for the F2A category it causes lots of problems. For one, to apply for adjustment of status in the US, the visa needs to be available according to USCIS. Combined with the requirement to maintain status up until the time of filing, this prevents some people from becoming residents through adjustment of status.

Immigration violations can be very serious for spouses of permanent residents. US immigration law says that if someone has ever had unlawful status, or ever worked without permission, they cannot adjust status. This comes up frequently because many visas, such as a B-2 tourist visa, are only issued for six month intervals. Filing for adjustment of status without having a lawful status, or when in some quasi-status like a pending asylum application, can make the process challenging or impossible.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get a green card, and spouses who are prevented from adjusting status can often consular process in their home country. In some cases, the spouse will need a waiver. Some waivers can be pre-approved by USCIS to lessen the period of separation abroad.

One benefit to filing as the spouse of a resident is that children can be included. The F2A category allows for dependents, such as unmarried children under age 21. Sometimes, even children over 21 are allowed to continue under the Child Status Protection Act. This ability to include dependents can save some money since only one petition is required.

Adjustment of Status Versus Consular Processing

There are two options for becoming residents and this can be confusing at first. Many people choose to adjust status in the US, but in some cases consular processing is a better option. Additionally, adjustment of status is often unavailable, leaving consular processing as the only choice.

Adjustment of status has strict requirements that preclude many people. They can’t have entered unlawfully in most cases, which prevents many with DACA and many who were brought to the US as children from using it. It’s also a common issue for parents who have US Citizen children who are over 21, yet who entered without permission. Sometimes, immigration waivers are possible here.

Consular processing is usually not desirable but it is a reality for many cases. Additionally, some people prefer to consular process. The main reason is that adjustment of status doesn’t allow easy travel. USCIS is taking 5-6 months to even issue travel permits, meaning that someone has to stay put for that entire period of time or abandon their application by traveling. Consular processing allows frequent travelers to leave when they need to, but it can be hard to predict when the interview at the embassy or consulate will actually occur. Additionally, having left the US one might have trouble re-entering if they are considered to have immigrant intent. This is a common reason that entries are denied, because most nonimmigrant visas only allow temporary travel.

Consular processing is also a bit cheaper. For example, completing an adjustment of status under today’s prices for a spouse costs about $2,160 while consular processing costs about $1,725 (medical exams are the large variable here). USCIS price increases on October 2, 2020, will make the divide even greater. The difference is bigger for families. A resident bringing a spouse and two young children to the US will have to pay about $4,460 for adjustment of status, whereas consular processing would cost about $3,215. The main differences there are having to file multiple expensive adjustment of status applications versus relatively cheap visa fees, as well as medical exam prices being higher in the US.

US Citizenship Office in Austin – Is There a USCIS Office in Austin, Texas?


US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operates many offices across the United States and even internationally. You can check for the nearest USCIS Office at As of today, USCIS does not have an immigration office in Austin, Texas, despite many immigrants living in the area.

There are many USCIS offices in Texas. Most people living in Austin, Texas, have to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for USCIS services. For example, US Citizenship applications filed by those living in Austin, Texas and surrounding cities will have their interviews scheduled in San Antonio, Texas. Perhaps someday USCIS will open an office in Austin, but there are already USCIS offices in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, which may make that a lower priority for USCIS.

ASC Biometrics Appointments in Austin, Texas

Many immigration applications require biometrics, which are just fingerprints and photos, and these appointments can be done in Austin, Texas. It’s best to follow the instructions on the biometrics appointment letter, also called an ASC Appointment, for the acronym Application Support Center. USCIS contracts to provide biometrics services at the ASC in northwest Austin, located at Parkline Plaza Shopping Center, 11301 Lakeline Boulevard, Suite 150, Austin, TX 78717. Fortunately, that means that most people don’t have to travel to San Antonio for fingerprints.

Scheduling In-Home Visits from USCIS or for Biometrics for Individuals Who Need Accommodations

Traveling to San Antonio can be a real hardship for some people. There are extreme circumstances where someone can actually request both biometrics and USCIS interviews to be conducted in another location, even in one’s own home. They do this, for example, for people who are disabled and unable to travel, or who would suffer serious hardships to travel. Requesting this kind of accommodation can delay a process but it’s an important option for people in that kind of situation.

To schedule such an accommodation it may be best to contact USCIS directly at the USCIS Customer Support number: 1 (800) 375-5283.

What is a Master Calendar Hearing in Immigration Court?

Executive Office for Immigration Review

Cases in immigration court usually are scheduled for two different types of hearings. There are short hearings, usually called “master calendar” hearings, and longer hearings known as “individual hearings” or “merits hearings.”

The master calendar hearing can have several purposes. Usually at the first hearing, an immigration judge advises the person appearing (the “respondent”) of his or her rights and duties. Most people are given one or more opportunities to hire an attorney if they ask for more time, but this depends on the judge and court.

Failure to appear at any hearing can lead to an order of removal simply for not appearing. If that happens, the person probably needs to discuss filing a motion to reopen with the court if eligible. Master calendar hearings are very quick for those with attorneys, and might only take 15 minutes. The judge will typically ask the person to identify himself or herself, any other people involved in the case, will sometimes ask the person respond to the allegations which the government is presenting, and then schedule another hearing.

At times, master calendar hearings do become more involved. For one, those appearing without an attorney will generally have to wait until all those people who came with attorneys are done. This could be several hours if there are a lot of people scheduled. Additionally, the judge may want to address some of the issues before scheduling another hearing, such as when someone denies charges and allegations, disputes nationality, asks the judge to terminate the case, or simply doesn’t understand the proceedings and needs clarification. Judges have large numbers of people scheduled on any given day and prefer to address each case as quickly as possible, so it can be helpful to have an attorney simply for the sake of saving time. Of course, working with an attorney is almost essential in these cases because immigration law is extremely complex.

Work Permits for Approved Withholding of Removal Cases

Work Permit

Currently, there are a number of people who have been approved for a benefit called withholding of removal, which is similar to asylum. This is because the Trump Administration’s “transit ban” prevented many people from obtaining asylum in the United States because they had crossed through Mexico on the way here. For people with very strong cases, instead of receiving asylum, the judge ordered approval of withholding of removal.

Withholding of removal is a benefit that allow someone to remain in the United States, but often not permanently. It does not contain some of the benefits that apply to someone given asylum. This includes the ability to apply for a green card after one year being in the United States. However, those who have been granted withholding of removal can apply for a work permit. The first work permit application is free.

It’s very important for anybody granted withholding of removal within the past few years to speak with an attorney in order to review their options. Because the transit ban was recently enjoined (stopped) by a court for many states, there may be new legal options. Many people may have a limited amount of time to reopen their cases in Immigration Court. This can allow that person to apply for Asylum again, and potentially get approved. An approved asylum case is significantly more powerful than withholding of removal. Asylum generally allows one to apply for a green card after 1 year and results in a much more stable and secure residence in the United States.

DOS Provides Information on National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations for H-1Bs, H-2Bs, L-1s, and J-1s

US Embassy Nairobi

There are a large number of presidential proclamations and executive orders currently suspending visas and travel for many individuals. Two of these proclamations, 10014 & 10052, contained some exceptions which were not fully implemented at the time of the proclamation.

Now, the US Department of State has issued a notice detailing the way these national interest exceptions should be implemented. The notice is fairly detailed, but here are some of the key points:

  • The Proclamation does not apply to applicants who were in the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (June 24), or who had a valid visa in the classifications mentioned above (and plans to enter the United States on that visa), or who had another official travel document valid on the effective date of the Proclamation.
  • The suspension on entry applies to spouses and children as H-4, L-2, or J-2 entrants, but so do the exceptions.
  • All the proclamations must be considered together. They have different applicability and different exceptions. “Until complete resumption of routine visa services, applicants who appear to be subject to entry restrictions under P.P. 10014, P.P. 10052, and/or regional-focused Presidential Proclamations related to COVID-19 (P.P. 9984, 9992, 9993, 9996, and/ or 10041) might not be processed for a visa interview appointment unless the applicant also appears to be eligible for an exception under the applicable Proclamation(s).”
  • What to do if you think you qualify for an exception? “follow the instructions on the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website regarding procedures necessary to request an emergency appointment and should provide specific details as to why they believe they may qualify for an exception.”
  • H-1B applicants should look closely at the groups which are given exceptions because they are very detailed (travel as a public health or healthcare professional or researcher, travel supported by a request from a U.S. government agency, travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification, travel by technical specialists, senior level managers).
  • H-2B applicants may also qualify for “travel based on a request from a U.S. government agency” and “travel necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States”
  • J-1s may meet an exception for travel related to child care (such as au pairs in certain circumstances), J-1s based on agreements between foreign governments and US agencies, Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs, Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with “G-5” on Form DS-2019, and Critical foreign policy objectives.
  • L-1As may travel as public health or healthcare professionals, based on a request from a U.S. government agency, by those seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification, and for senior level executive or manager filling a critical business need of an employer meeting a critical infrastructure need
  • L-1Bs may travel as public health or healthcare professionals, based on a request from a U.S. government agency, by those seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification, and as a technical expert or specialist meeting a critical infrastructure need
  • Finally, also included are applicants who are subject to aging out of their current immigrant visa classification before P.P. 10014 expires or within two weeks thereafter.

I-485 Green Card Application Fees to Increase October 2, 2020

Green Cards

As previously described, USCIS published a new fee rule which increases prices for many common forms and benefit types. Not all prices are going up – USCIS states that fees will increase by 20% overall – but it turns out that fees are decreasing mostly for uncommon application types and increasing for the most common and important benefits.

One somewhat hidden change to the pricing is that I-485 applications appear to be decreasing in price, but in reality are becoming more expensive for most applicants. That’s because USCIS also made a separate and not widely-recognized change to separate the fees for the I-765 work permit applications and I-131 travel permit applications from the price of the I-485. Before, they were included. Now they’re separate.

The pricing for I-485 applications to adjust status is now a bit more confusing. USCIS lowered the price of form I-485 from $1,140 to $1,130, a decrease of $10. However, it also increased the price for children applying along with parents from $750 to $1,130, an increase of 51%. Finally, as mentioned above, USCIS is no longer allowing people to file forms I-765 and I-131 without a fee when that person has paid the filing fee for I-485. They are now completely separate. That means that applicants must pay an additional $410 for an I-765 work permit application and $590 for a travel permit application.

All those things considered, a person filing the same application after October 2, 2020, will pay $2,215 for a simple I-485 adjustment of status with a work permit and travel permit. That’s a 94% increase for many people. It will be more if the person also needs to file an I-130 petition, which is true for most cases. Going forward, people will have to decide whether it makes sense to seek a work or travel permit. However, for most people it is not possible to wait, potentially for years, without work while USCIS lets their application sit on a shelf. Nor can they stay in the US for years without traveling in many cases. Many people will face difficult choices that were not problems previously.

Finally, USCIS is increasing the cost for children filing along with their parents, as noted above. This means that for a US Citizen who is filing for a spouse and children, the process just became much more expensive. It will cost at least 51% more for each child filing for adjustment of status, not accounting for whether that child will need a work permit or travel permit as well.

Despite the pandemic, USCIS is still accepting new applications. It is now starting to schedule biometrics appointments for fingerprints, which are often essential for processing an application, and slowly starting to schedule in-person interviews.

N-400 Naturalization Fees to Increase October 2, 2020


As previously described, USCIS published a new fee rule which increases prices for many common forms and benefit types. Not all prices are going up – USCIS states that fees will increase by 20% overall – but it turns out that fees are decreasing mostly for uncommon application types and increasing for the most common and important benefits.

In particular, the fees for those wishing to become US Citizens through naturalization will increase from $725 ($640 + $85 required biometrics fee) to $1,200 ($1,170 + $30 biometrics fee). That’s an increase of 83% for the N-400 form. This fee increase begins on October 2, 2020, and forms filed between now and that date will still only require the $725 filing fee, if one does not qualify for the mid-tier price or for a complete fee waiver.

USCIS is making some other big changes to the naturalization fees. First, it is increasing the mid-tier price, which used to be $405, to $880. That price is available to those who have a lower income and who submit an additional form, I-942 Request for Reduced Fee, which is somewhat uncommon but an important savings for people who qualify. Second, USCIS is eliminating many options for fee waivers which used to allow people to file for naturalization without a fee if their income is very low. This will prevent many people from becoming citizens.

Despite the pandemic, USCIS is still accepting new applications. It is now starting to schedule biometrics appointments for fingerprints, which are often essential for processing an application, and slowly starting to schedule in-person interviews.

I-601A Provisional Waiver Fees to Increase October 2, 2020


As previously described, USCIS published a new fee rule which increases prices for many common forms and benefit types. Not all prices are going up – USCIS states that fees will increase by 20% overall – but it turns out that fees are decreasing mostly for uncommon application types and increasing for the most common and important benefits.

In particular, the fees for a provisional unlawful presence waiver will increase from $715 ($630 + $85 required biometrics fee) to $990 ($960 + $30 biometrics fee). That’s an increase of 52% for the I-601A form. This fee increase begins on October 2, 2020, and forms filed between now and that date will still only require the $715 filing fee.

Despite the pandemic, USCIS is still accepting new applications. It is now starting to schedule biometrics appointments for fingerprints, which are often essential for processing an application, and slowly starting to schedule in-person interviews.