FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building in Fort Smith is closed until at least next month, but there are things people can do in the meantime if they need assistance, according to an agency spokesperson.
An email sent by public affairs officer Sharon Scheidhauer included a list of five bullet points for things people can do until the COVID-19 outbreak tampers:
1. Ask Emma. Emma can answer questions you might have on immigration. Emma will also direct you to the right pages of our website for more detailed information. Think of her as a navigator. https://www.uscis.gov/emma
2. Create a USCIS online account. It’s free and easy. It allows you to file online, track your case, and communicate electronically with USCIS. Visit https://my.uscis.gov to get started.
3. Start gathering documents, such as your birth certificate, that you may need if you are preparing to file for immigration benefits.
4. Update your address. Update your address with us to ensure you receive notices from USCIS on time and avoid possible delays or denials related to your immigration case. https://www.uscis.gov/addresschange
5. Consider online filing. We continue to make more forms available for online filing. You can apply to become a naturalized citizen, petition for a family member, and replace a green card, among other things. To see a full list of forms available for online filing, visit: www.uscis.gov/forms
Immigration attorney Aaron Cash noted USCIS is taking other positive steps during this time to ease the burden on people, including reusing pictures and fingerprints for background checks. Traditionally, people have to resend each when a new background check is needed.
The agency should look into virtual elements, Cash said.
“They could also do naturalization by video, and they could swear people in over video,” Cash said. “There’s no difference.”
Delaying in-person interviews could put someone’s lawful status in jeopardy or hurt employment, Cash said, so online interviews could also be a welcomed addition if the agency looks into it.