COVID-19 UPDATES April 2, 2020
Published on April 4, 2020
Orlando immigration attorney Nayef Mubarak talks about the latest changes in Immigration law due to the COVID-19 crisis. Updates include County Court and USCIS closures, possible impact on filing for unemployment, and marriage certificates. Call us today at (407) 502-3000.
COVID-19 UPDATES 4/2/2020 - including Court & USCIS closures, unemployment, & marriage certificates
Hey, everybody. Nayef Mubarak here with Mubarak Law. As promised, I am going to continue to provide with as many updates as possible. Hope you all are hanging in there. This is difficult for everybody and I know that we are coming to the toughest weeks ahead, so I just wanted to provide you guys with these quick updates. Today, I hope to talk about the new order, the latest updates with USCIS, immigration courts and the county courts. Also, some tips about people who were hoping to get married and marriage certificates. We will briefly touch on some processing times and things you can do to support a marriage-based case.
In Florida, the governor signed a statewide order where tonight at midnight there will be a statewide ban from the governor's office. This looks like it's going to be expanding, basically, what we've seen in several counties, but now it's going to be a statewide effect. This is, again, because due to the spreading number of the viruses. Right now, USCIS has cancelled any interviews in-person, biometrics, whatever it may be, until May 3rd, and the immigration courts are canceled until at least May 1st for non-detained cases. We still are having court hearings for detained cases. So immigration attorneys are required to go to court in order to represent their clients who are incarcerated. This has not been shut down yet. I know there's a lot out there advocating to stop these hearings or to release individuals who are pending these cases. We are watching this situation closely. But, if you've had any hearing until May 1st, your court case has been cancelled and will be rescheduled as soon as possible. USCIS is continuing to work on cases, although there are no in-person meetings. Hopefully if you have a pending case, don't be discouraged. We hope that they will continue to operate. We saw an update recently that if you had a pending adjustment case, but you can't go in for your fingerprint authorization, USCIS is going to go ahead and refresh fingerprints for those who are seeking work permit renewals.
Local courts, Ninth Circuit, for example, Orange County, Osceola County, there are no jury trials, there are no only essential hearings. The courthouse is not open to the public, and this has asked a lot of people to kind of delay whether they were getting married. A lot of people have reached out to us asking questions such as:
“I was supposed to get married, is my marriage license still valid? What can I do?”
Last week we touched on this issue and I wanted to speak to you all about it today. The Orange County Clerk of Courts, this is specifically to the Ninth Circuit, has released an FAQ (frequently asked questions) about those individuals who wanted to obtain a marriage license. I'm going to go ahead and just read some of these to you and hopefully this will help clear some things out.
“I already have a marriage license, however my ceremony was scheduled, and it's been cancelled. What can I do?”
Your marriage license has not been, you know, no longer valid, you can still seek a notary public or a minister who is authorized, and this will go ahead and make your marriage legal. So, even if you can't get to the courthouse, that doesn't mean you are unable to complete your marriage ceremony. If you already have the license and it's still in the valid period, contact an authorized notary or a minister and they can conduct the ceremony.
“I was told marriage licenses must be returned ten days after ceremony”.
As long as, your ceremony was held between the effective date and the expiration date of the license, your marriage license will be considered valid. So, this is straight from the Clerk of Court website.
“I need a copy of my marriage certificate. How can I obtain that?”
Right now, that's not going to be possible given the office being closed. So, I've just got paused here because attorney Suhail has mentioned there's also a remote notary option. So, you know, everybody is doing their best to adapt here and to update to their systems, so make sure you check the clerk website and you reach out to see what's the best thing. If you have the marriage license already, you can still have it notarized, you can still have a local minister, go ahead and make your marriage license valid.
“What about emergency marriage license?”
If you don't have the marriage license already, how can you obtain it? You'll have to contact the Clerk of Court for an emergency marriage license and obviously, you're going to have to prove that and, it does say here you will have to demonstrate or both parties, will have to go through a health screening. If the clerk of court does determine that you are qualified for an emergency marriage license, you can then have that obtained as long as both people pass the health screening requirements.
On the marriage certificate process, that has been one of the issues we've been getting a lot of questions. Oftentimes we get questions such as:
“Can I apply for unemployment? Is this going to affect my wife's case?”
This is a little bit of a complicated question and I just want to talk about this for a second. Now, with the new public charge rules that went into effect as of February 24th, the applicant must show they are not going to be a public charge onto the US government. Now, the petitioner is living when the same household is going to be subject to the same scrutiny, so in addition to the affidavit of support, they're going to look at the job income, the credit history, what kind of financial aid are they receiving. So, yes and no to answer that question. If you are going to obtain public benefits or unemployment, for example it's not considered under the public charge, but it may link to a big picture, as is it likely that you would become a public charge. So, if you qualify for those benefits, make sure that you do, we don't want anyone applying for benefits that they shouldn't. If it is a benefit that is only for citizens or residents, you should not be applying for these benefits, if you don't qualify for them. It is one of the biggest takeaways that I will constantly tell people to make sure you qualify for benefits and not to shoot yourself in the foot. We call it, you know, the kiss of death or nail in the coffin, if you claim to be a citizen and you're not. There is really nothing worse you can do in immigration law than do false claim of citizenship, and a lot of times this happens when people seek benefits, register to vote or even just filling out a driver's license and go ahead and hit register to vote. So, please be careful of that.
Some other updates for you. We mentioned last time ESTA and this is what satisfactory departure is. A lot of people are not able to travel right now, and you can obtain a satisfactory departure through an airport, if you can demonstrate the significant hardship or your inability to travel. The satisfactory departure, in essence, allows you to demonstrate that, but for the restrictions on travel, you would have complied with your limitations.
Given the theme of today's topic was a lot relating to the marriage cases, another question we often see is:
“We are a young couple or I can't get a Social Security card, how can I prove that me and my spouse are living together? I have financials together?
It's true, often- times, you can't provide a social security number, so you can't get car insurance, or you can't obtain health insurance. What is the solution? You should be able to work with family members, friends, or coworkers. They can write sworn affidavits to support your marriage. There is no one piece of evidence that makes the case. You want to make sure you are providing USCIS with the most evidence possible. So, you either have statements from friends, neighbors. It doesn't matter where you live, you are going to have a neighbor or a co-worker. So, try to gather evidence and you want to get creative with it, based on your circumstances. So, if you don't have all the money in the world to have tied financials, then really show letters from friends or family, and this is one thing that should be notarized, that a lot of times can carry a lot of weight. Now, these should be very specific to each person who writes an affidavit for you, because there shouldn't be a template, right? It should be somebody attesting to their relationship to you and how they know you and your spouse, and this gives insight to USCIS as to what type of relationship you all have.
With the tax season being around here, we do get asked often:
“How do I file taxes? My spouse doesn't have a social security number, we haven't received anything. What should we do?”
Again, I would always defer to your CPA or an accountant. There are ways you can file taxes with your spouse, whether it's getting a tax ID number or filing jointly as married or filing separate. But, you want your life to reflect your legal status. So, if you are legally married in the United States and you should be filing taxes that way. So, please speak with your accountant or whichever company you are utilizing to make sure that they do their best to help you. That's something that we see very often in tax season and people who are recently married and wanting to know “How should I file taxes with my spouse?”
We covered the marriages, marriage license - those can be executed even without a courthouse at this time - just make sure you have a valid marriage license. USCIS will not be operating or conducting any interviews from now until May 3rd and the immigration courts are closed until May 1st. Now, the circuit courts are closed until April 17th. I am sure we will receive an update shortly after the governor signed his order and I am sure these circuit courts will also, probably, align with the governor's order and just assuming that that is where we will see the deadline for the circuit courts as well.
As promised, we are going to continue to update you guys as much as possible. We have been conducting virtual consultations, so either Skype, Zoom or on the phone, we have been speaking to our clients and so if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. Tomorrow, a lot of people have been reading about these cares act and the payment protection payroll for employers, so that is a deadline that is coming tomorrow or just being launched tomorrow. Excuse me, not a deadline, so if you're an employer this may be a really good option for you to help keep your staff during this difficult period. We will continue to update you all throughout this pandemic and hopefully you find this helpful. If there is a topic you want to learn more about, let us know and we are happy to discuss these issues with you.