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Q. I mailed my application for US citizenship in early March before the pandemic started.  I was scheduled for a biometrics appointment on March 25, but I received a notice cancelling my appointment.  I was hoping to be sworn in as a citizen in time to vote in the November election.  Will COVID-19 cause a delay?

A. As of March 18, USCIS has suspended all in person appointments.  This includes biometrics appointments, interviews, and naturalization ceremonies.  USCIS states that cancelled appointments will be automatically rescheduled when their offices resume normal in person operations.  As of now, they state that they are closed through May 4.  However, this could be extended.

Given their suspended operations, it is normal that your biometrics appointment was cancelled.  USCIS states that you should receive notice of your rescheduled appointment within 90 days.  

You can expect a delay with processing your application and therefore the timing of your interview and naturalization ceremony.  How long the delay will depend on the course of the pandemic and the length of further public closures.  You can obtain the latest USCIS COVID-19 updates by visiting their website at uscis.gov.  

In the meantime, you can check the status of your case by visiting the website.  Also, in order to avoid any additional delays in your case, if you move or change your address, you should visit the same website and change your address online right away.

Of course, only US citizens are eligible to vote.  At the naturalization interview, the USCIS officer will approve your application, but you do not officially become a citizen until you are sworn in by a judge at your oath ceremony.  At the ceremony, you will turn in your green card and receive your naturalization certificate.  At that point, you will be eligible to register to vote.

In Massachusetts, the official deadline to register for the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 14, so there is still time for your application to run its course by then.  However, keep in mind that if you become a US citizen between Oct. 14 and Nov. 2, Massachusetts law still permits you to register to vote.  You will need to bring your naturalization certificate to your town or city hall before 4 p.m. on Nov. 2, and you will be able to register in time to vote in the election.

If you have questions about the naturalization process, eligibility to naturalize, or any other immigration matter, please contact the Rian Immigrant Center at 617-542-7654.  Our walk-in immigration clinics have been suspended due to COVID-19, but our attorneys are providing immigration consultations over the phone and will be happy to speak with you.

Disclaimer:  These articles are published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases.  Immigration law is always subject to change.  US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the US Department of State frequently amend regulations and alter processing and filing procedures. For legal advice, seek the assistance of Rian’s immigration legal staff.