Winter Weather Considerations: Closures and Delivery Delays11 Dec 2013
Winter snowstorms and other weather-related problems can impact the operations of virtually any organization or business. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no exception; nor are the courier and mail delivery services exempt from delays due to weather. The government recognizes that severe weather does, from time to time, inevitably lead to office closures and delayed case filings, and therefore has developed general policies to address such events. These policies, however, may come as a surprise to many stakeholders, so a basic understanding of how the USCIS treats severe weather should help foreign nationals and employers avoid potential problems and confusion.
USCIS Field Office Closings
Information about closed offices and delayed openings are posted on the USCIS WebSite. This information is updated, as appropriate. Those scheduled for USCIS interviews will be automatically rescheduled if the office is closed on the day of the appointment. However, individuals who have scheduled appointments through the InfoPass system will need to make new appointments on their own.
Application Support Center Closures
The USCIS WebSite also lists information pertaining to the closure of application support centers (ASCs). These offices are responsible for biometric (fingerprinting) appointments. In the event of an ASC closure due to weather or other short-term problems, the USCIS will reschedule the appointments automatically. Rescheduled applicants also have the option of going to the ASC on a walk-in basis, once the office reopens.
Delivery Service Delays
It is important to be mindful that deadlines still generally apply, regardless of weather conditions. While the USCIS sometimes makes accommodations for disasters and other extreme conditions, the majority of the time, filings with set deadlines must be received by the USCIS on time to be considered as having been timely filed.
As mentioned, Mother Nature sometimes prevents express delivery services, such as Federal Express, from making scheduled deliveries. It is important to check the website of the delivery service used and attempt to plan for the possibility of such delays by filing at least a couple of days before the deadline, if at all possible.
Readers are encouraged to check the USCIS WebSite prior to going to a field office or ASC to ensure the office is open, especially following a severe storm or natural disaster. Delivery service websites may also provide helpful information about delays, but knowing a filing will be late does not necessarily resolve the problem. Therefore, whenever possible, applicants should anticipate the need for a few extra days to avoid late filings due to weather. Those who have run into immigration difficulties because of filings being submitted late due to circumstances beyond their control are encouraged to contact the Murthy Law Firm to determine what options may be available.
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