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Coronavirus Update: No Special COVID Relief for Nonimmigrants Seeking Change or Extension of Stay

By April 14, 2020March 29th, 2021COVID-19
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At the moment, USCIS is not offering flexibility to nonimmigrant who are unable to depart the U.S. because of the COVID outbreak. Foreign nationals who are soon out of status may seek a change or extension of status to stay in the country under standard USCIS procedures.

Options for Extension of Stay for Nonimmigrants

B-1 or B-2 Visas

File an extension of stay application before the expiration of your I-94. The I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record Card that the United States government uses to keep track of the arrivals and departures of foreign nationals. The only people who do not receive I-94s when entering the United States are U.S. citizens, green card holders, and the majority of Canadian citizens visiting the United States.An extension of status must be filed before the expiration of the current period of stay or the visitor will begin to accrue unlawful presence. To learn more about I-94’s, please click here.

Nonimmigrants on work visas who have lost their jobs can file for a change of status from their current visas into a B visa. This application must be filed before the applicant’s 60-day grace period expires or the applicant will begin to accrue unlawful presence.

Sponsored Work Visas

File an extension of stay application before the expiration of your visa or I-94. Nonimmigrants in one of the above categories who are sponsored for an extension of status by the same employer for the same job position can receive an automatic extension of status and work authorization for 240 days while the application is pending. The application must be filed before the expiration of the visa in order for the automatic extension to apply.

When an application to extend or change status if filed after the applicant’s current status expires, USCIS has the discretion to excuse the late filing if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. This is only granted on a case by case basis and must be supported by evidence.

Visa Waivers or ESTA Travelers

Satisfactory departure is an extension of admission period and is granted only in limited cases and for serious emergencies, such as hospitalization, or conditions that cause flights to be delayed or cancelled for more than 24 hours (weather, worker strikes, etc.). Otherwise, people visiting under the Visa Waiver Program may not stay beyond their initial 90-days. You can learn more about satisfactory departure here.

Though USCIS have suggests that COVID-related delays may be excused, applications for relief must be carefully documented. Adjudicators have a great deal of discretion in their review, and applications are still likely to be subject to a high degree of scrutiny. It’s strongly recommended that all change or extension of status applications are filed in a timely manner.

You can find key immigration information related to the Corona Virus below.

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