With all of the snow piling up around us I thought it would be good time to have a brief discussion about how find out when U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to close, due to snow. Our local field offices, Buffalo & Syracuse, have been getting pounded by snow storms, especially since both are geographically part of New York’s “snow belt.” Sometimes it can be confusing to figure out if USCIS is open or closed and what to do if an appointment is cancelled and needs to be rescheduled. Missing one of these appointments when their offices are open can also delay a case for several weeks, if not a month or two. So here are some pointers I try to give to clients whenever I know their USCIS appointments will be scheduled during the winter months or early spring.
First of all, I love snow days – most people do – but they do cause a lot of headaches. I know how much planning it takes for clients to arrange time off of work and also find transportation (for those without cars) so they can attend a biometrics appointment or a USCIS interview. So when there is a snow day, those plans have to be nixed and made again for another day. Also, having a snow day in Ithaca doesn’t necessarily mean there is one in Buffalo or Syracuse, and vice versa. So there can be some confusion about what to do exactly when a major snow storm may be headed our way or further north.
If there is a suspected closing, my first piece of advice for those who have a scheduled appointment is to check their voicemail. Both Buffalo and Syracuse field offices make a good attempt to contact all applicants if they either have a closing or suspect there will be a closing. Secondly, applicants who have access to the internet can google “USCIS Field Office Closing.” This will take them to this page on the USCIS website where there will be an **ALERT** in case of closings and Buffalo or Syracuse will be listed there if either are closed. If there is a closing, anyone with a non-INFOPASS appointment can expect their appointment is going to be rescheduled – a notice will be mailed (which can be slow) but it will happen.
Thirdly, if applicants haven’t received a call from USCIS cancelling their appointment or are unable to check the USCIS website, they can call the Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. A service rep can assist them by letting them know whether or not there is a snow day in Buffalo or Syracuse. If there is inclement weather in Ithaca and applicants feel a need to reschedule an appointment, customer service can also assist with this by submitting a report to the field office stating the interview needs to be cancelled and rescheduled. And the last piece of advice I give to clients is for them to think about the drive and consider their safety – all upstate New Yorkers have heard stories about how bad the thruway can be in a snow storm and this winter has had some brutal ones. Given that it takes several hours to drive to Buffalo and back on a good day, I always advise them to put safety first when there is inclement weather, especially if they are a new driver.