U.S. Government Must Extend Visa Validity for Immigrants and Refugees During COVID-19

The Honorable Chad Wolf

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528


The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520


Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary Wolf:


We write to request that your Departments take action to ensure that refugees and individuals who possess or are applying for visas, parole, and entry permits, are not unjustly affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

As you know, foreign nationals often wait for months or years and go to great lengths and expense to obtain visas and other forms of authorization to enter the United States. They include valued employees of U.S. companies, close relatives of U.S. citizens, individuals persecuted because of who they are and what they believe, and individuals who face risk because of faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government. Applicants spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to apply and often have waited for a visa or other entry permit for many years. Some are required to travel to foreign countries to complete interviews.

These visas and entry permits have limited validity periods, and many applicants will see their visa or entry permits expire as a direct result of the pandemic. Many individuals are following sound advice to postpone travel to limit risk of exposure to COVID-19. Many others are prohibited from traveling to the United States due to restrictions from their country of residence or from Presidential Proclamations restricting entry.

We write to request that the Departments of State and Homeland Security take all action afforded you by law to extend validity periods and deadlines that will pass before the end of the current global pandemic and travel restrictions. Failing to extend these expiration dates would punish individuals who have satisfied all requirements for admission to the United States. For individuals with valid visas, we urge the Department of State to extend validity periods as a matter of policy pursuant to 9 FAM 504.10-5(A). We urge you to consider limiting additional medical checks to checks for infectious diseases and providing them at no cost to the applicant.

We also request the Department of State to decide, as a matter of policy, to wait to terminate pending visa petitions under INA Section 203(g) until after the U.S. travel restrictions are lifted and the virus moves to a post-pandemic stage. Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security should extend the time period for responding to Requests for Evidence and other deadlines such as filing an I-730 petition or a Priority-3 Affidavit of Relationship. Individuals may be unable to obtain evidence requested by a consular officer or by USCIS, unable to travel to an interview, or unable to access their visa application in the current circumstances.

We request the Department of State and its vetting partners to take steps to limit the harm of this pandemic on applicants for admission as refugees and special immigrants. The Departments of State and its vetting partners should continue processing and issuance of humanitarian-based immigration benefits to the extent such processing is unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic and extend security check validity periods for refugees and special immigrants.

The Department of State should resume refugee admissions expeditiously, consistent with general travel restrictions from refugees’ countries of residence, and reallocate refugee admissions to ensure that the Presidential Determination for fiscal year 2020 can be reached.

All of these measures will promote fair outcomes to individuals who have gone to great lengths to travel to this country, and to encourage individuals to limit travel during this time of global pandemic.



Ads-Up Refugee Network

Aldea – The People’s Justice Center

American Immigration Lawyers Association

American Jewish World Service

American Muslim Empowerment Network

Americans for a Free Syria

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)

Arkansas United

Asian American Arts Alliance

Asian American Federation

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Association of Wartime Allies

Asylum Access

Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture

Bethany Christian Services

Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Mary (New York and New England)

Caritas of Austin

Catholic Relief Services

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Center for Victims of Torture

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – Week of Compassion

Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Church World Service

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Columban Mission Center

Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS)

Congregation Beth Israel

Council of Peoples Organization

Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center

Demand Progress Education Fund

DFW Asylum Seeker Housing Network

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

Equality Labs

Equality North Carolina

Felician Sisters of North America

Forum for Youth Investment

Franciscan Action Network

Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart

Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph

Franciscans for Justice

Freedom for Immigrants

Friends of Human Rights


Hamilton-Madison House

Heartland Alliance International

Helping Hand for Relief and Development


Hispanic Federation

Human Rights First

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, Elon University School of Law The Hunger Project

In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

International Rescue Committee

Islamic Relief USA

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Journey’s End Refugee Services

Justice in Aging

The Legal Project

Libyan American Alliance

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area

Migration and Refugee Services/USCCB

Multicultural Refugee Coalition

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

NAFSA: Association of International Educators

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Jewish Women

National Employment Law Project

National Immigration Forum

National Immigration Law Center

New American Pathways

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Justice for Our Neighbors, Inc

Niskanen Center

Norwegian Refugee Council USA

NY-Justice For Our Neighbors

Oasis Legal Services

OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates


Oxfam America

PCUN, Oregon’s Farmworker Union

Presbyterian Church USA

Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)

Red T

Refugee Congress

Refugee Services of Texas


Refugees International

Rian Immigrant Center

Sampreshan Inc

School Sisters of St. Francis

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team

Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi

Sisters of St. Joseph TOSF


Syrian American council

Tahirih Justice Center

Temple Beth Shalom Social Justice Core Team

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

Third Order Society of St. Francis Province of the Americas

Turning Point for Women and Families

Union for Reform Judaism

United Stateless

USC International Human Rights Clinic

Veterans for American Ideals

We Are All America Witness at the Border World Relief