Covid-19 Lockdown:Your Top 5 US Immigration Questions Answered

Posted on March 27, 2020
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Covid's Impact on Immigration

Coronavirus has infected 530,000 people and had 24,000 fatalities worldwide so far.  This pandemic has affected several lives, brought world economies to a standstill and may end in a global recession. One of the bigger impacts is on immigration and global mobility. Here we address five of the top most pressing immigration situations that have been influenced by the Coronavirus.

US B2 Visitor Visas Extensions

Several temporary visitors to the US on B2 visitor visas are looking to extend their visas due to lockdowns instituted by both the US as well as their home country. Travel bans have added to their inability to return to their home country.

You Can Still Extend Your US Visitor Visa

Here’s what you need

B2 Visa Extension

What USCIS Says…

Under such ‘Special Conditions’ like a global pandemic, B2 visitor visa holders can extend their stay beyond the dates in their I-94 on the basis of genuine and urgent reasoning like their inability to travel in a timely manner.  USCIS takes into consideration extraordinary circumstances like the current travel advisories that is beyond their control.

H1-B 2021 Lottery 

Due to enforced social distancing to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, and restrained mobility, H1-B beneficiaries are unsure about a future job waiting for them in the US. Coupled with a hiring freeze amongst many companies and potential lay-offs due to the Coronavirus spread, several employers are uncertain about filing their applications.

Important Dates, Timelines and New Process

Here’s everything you should know about the H1-B 2021 Lottery cap

H1-B 2021

What USCIS Says…

USCIS has completed the initial period for online H1-B registrations and is expected to announce the results by March 31, 2020. Employers can start submitting completed H1-B petitions starting April 1, 2020. USCIS intends to continue this process and has offered flexibility in terms of accepting electronically reproduced signatures instead of the mandatory ‘wet’ signatures on all forms.  According to the new lottery cap system, they will accept completed H1-B petitions for 90 days, until June 30, 2020.

Increase in Green Card Backlogs

USCIS announced a closure of all their offices and Application Service Centers to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among their staff. All biometric appointments, visa interviews and US citizenship tests and naturalization ceremonies stand cancelled until further notice. This is bound to create tremendous backlog to an already choking system wherein the wait for green card extends to over 30 years now.

What USCIS Says…

For any emergent requirement, USCIS has a skeletal staff addressing questions and processing basic petition work. Since most in-person appointments have been cancelled, recipients should expect a notice in the mail with directions about rescheduling. All Infopass requests should call the nearest USCIS office and reschedule the meeting.

F1 Student Visa Status

Due to the coronavirus lockdown, many companies are reducing personnel and cancelling summer internship programs. Not only is OPT being rescinded but F1 students are losing H1-B job offers as well.This could lead to loss of F1 visa standing.

Plight of F1 Students During Covid-19

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F1 Visa Holders

Additionally, as students are asked to attend online classes, not being on campus can also impact their F1 visa status.

What USCIS Says…

Understanding of the extenuating circumstances caused by this pandemic, USCIS has allowed certain qualifying F1 visa holders to work off campus by filling and submitting Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization along with Form I-20, and supporting materials. They can still look for employers until April 1 who might hire them.

Premium Processing Suspended

With most USCIS offices closed and officers working remotely the service of premium processing has been temporarily suspended until further notice. H1-B cap subject beneficiaries or those seeking extensions will not be able to avail of getting an adjudication in 15 days. This could mean that there will additional delays in processing H1-B petitions this lottery cycle. This is an indefinite suspension.

What USCIS Says…

While premium processing is cancelled, petitioners should continue submitting their H1-B applications in a timely manner. Adhere to the new timelines announced by USCIS. It is recommended that while there are 90 days to submit a completed H1-B petition, the chances of getting a response is higher the sooner you submit it.

Talk to your immigration counsel about extensions. They can suggest alternatives under extenuating circumstances such as this global pandemic.

Disclaimer: The views presented here are purely for informational purposes only and not meant to be misconstrued as legal advice.  

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