COVID-19 has devastated health and economic systems around the world. It has also closed schools and shops and has almost brought international travel to a standstill. Part of the population that is severely affected by these closures is the class of people here in the United States who receive a temporary visa. This includes those with tourist visas, international students and academics, and those with temporary work visas. Coronavirus immigration status changes must therefore be properly understood.
Many visa holders are essentially stranded in the United States. Maybe her flight back home was canceled. Or maybe the country you are traveling back to has closed all airports. Or worse, the person may have coronavirus and it is simply not feasible or safe for them to travel.
How are immigrant visas affected?
USCIS own website has a good amount of information about the current crisis. As USCIS generally states, people staying in the United States due to entry into a non-immigrant visa (i.e., a temporary visa) must “leave the United States before their approved admission period expires”.
One thing that is very important and that creates confusion for some people is what is meant by the “approval period”. For example, a person may have a tourist visa (B1 / B2) in their passport that is valid for 10 years. However, this does not mean that their admission period is ten years. When the tourist visa holder was approved at the border, they were approved for a relatively short period of time.
This period is usually six months for the entry of a tourist visa, although it is possible at the discretion of the customs and border guards (CBP) to grant a shorter period.
How do I know when my “admission period” expires?
To have a clear idea of when your “admission period” expires, you need to have access to your I-94, also known as the “Departure Log”. In the past, people who entered the United States often received a blank card to fill in (often while they were still on their trip)
Flight). The visitor then presented the white card and passport to the CBP officer, and a stamp was affixed to the I-94 card stating the date and place of entry (example: NYC for New York City or SFO for San Francisco), and there was also an indication of how long the person could stay until (sometimes the stamp and notation was entered in the passport itself).
As mentioned above, many entries were granted six months for tourist visas. At many airports, the process of presenting passports has become more automated, and I-94 is not physically handed over to the person, but a record is created online by CBP. Online I-94 provides the participant’s name, date of birth, passport information (number and country of issue), date of arrival and the date by which the stay was approved.
It is important that you have access to this I-94 information. A competent immigration visa attorney can help you find out when your admission period expires.
How do I request a change in the status of Coronavirus immigration?
A competent and experienced visa immigration attorney can help you apply for an extension of your authorized stay. As stated by USCIS, there will be no illegal presence for the duration of this approved stay as long as your request made on Form I-539 is made during the approved stay period. That is why it is so important to make this request quickly. And it’s helpful to document things like canceling flights due to the corona virus or your own health problems.
What if I couldn’t submit I-539 in time due to Covid-19?
Although it is much better to submit I-539 before your authorized stay expires, based on the current situation, you may have an argument for “exceptional circumstances” that USCIS can be proven to overcome the late filing of I-539- Extension requirement. It is important that you work with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney so that you can put together a case that will convincingly and efficiently present your extension request and that you have taken the necessary care to get it as quickly as possible possible to submit you could possibly under the circumstances.
What if my I-94 says “D / S”?
D / S stands for “status duration”. This is most common among people who have applied for a student visa (F1). The term “duration of status” means that your stay remains valid as long as the person does all the things they need to do to maintain their student status in good faith.
If Covid-19 and the crisis created a situation for you where you think you cannot maintain your student status, or if you have already lost that status, it is important that you speak to an immigration lawyer immediately, to see what happens An extension of the stay options may exist for you.
What can I do if I have been granted a work visa but have been fired from my job due to the economic crisis?
We are getting more and more calls and emails from people who have had a work visa for a specific job, like the H1B, E-3, or TN visa, and then the Covid 19 crisis hit the economy, and this Person has been fired from doing it. The first thing to consider is that a person for work-related visas is granted a grace period of 60 days from the date they lose their job, provided that they do not exceed the length of the approved stay on their I-94. So that’s a built in 60 days from the date of discharge.
Can I stay later than this 60 day grace period? What if I can’t leave the US in 60 days because of the health crisis?
It is possible that a person who is within the 60-day grace period for a work visa can apply for a “change of status” to another status such as the B1 / B2 visitor visa status with an important reason. It is important that such an application is submitted before the 60-day grace period. It is therefore important to speak to a qualified immigration lawyer immediately.
What if I am admitted to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
Under normal circumstances, those entering the VWP will not be able to request an extension of stay or change their status (although they can change their status if they are married to a US citizen). This makes the Visa Waiver program unique. Those who are on it can essentially enter without a visa, but the downside is that there are no extensions or changes to the authorized residence. However, if you have entered the VWP under the current circumstances and are in a situation where it is simply impossible to leave the company, you may be able to request a form of relief known as a “satisfactory departure”.
This application can be made to the Customs and Border Guard (CBP) depending on the different circumstances. Granting CBP a satisfactory departure may result in the person having up to an additional 30 days to leave the United States without assuming that they have violated their VWP entry and exit requirements. And because of the severity of the pandemic, it may even be possible to apply for a second grant for a satisfactory departure if the person who entered VWP is already receiving their first grant.
This is, of course, on a case-by-case basis and it is important to speak to a competent immigration attorney about your particular circumstances.
Can I make these requests myself or should I hire an immigration attorney?
With the Covid 19 epidemic and the crisis, we are really breaking new ground. Most people’s memories have never closed so completely. The impact on the immigration and visa system was remarkable. When inquiring to the immigration authorities at normal times, it was always best to have one experienced immigration lawyer at your side. In the face of a crisis and an even higher level of commitment, it definitely makes sense to have a competent lawyer who will support you in this process.
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