last updated April 10, 2020
At Global Talent Immigration Law Group, the health and safety of our clients and their loved ones is our top priority, and we are working hard to stay on top of new developments in order to properly navigate these uncertain times together.
Our attorneys are closely tracking legal and regulatory developments to help clients solve their immigration issues related to COVID-19 and are here to answer any questions you may have.
This page will be updated regularly. Please also send an email to email@example.com to receive our COVID-19 immigration-related email updates, as well as our monthly newsletter.
THE FOLLOWING IMMIGRATION SERVICES
HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY COVID-19:
USCIS Premium Processing (15 day processing) remains temporarily suspended. O-1 visas will be submitted under normal processing times but may be “upgraded” when premium processing is reinstated.
US Consulates remain closed temporarily.
USCIS In person interviews and biometrics appointments for green cards are suspended until May 3, 2020.
USCIS domestic field offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments or naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure. They will automatically be rescheduled once normal operations resume.
B1/B2 Visas & ESTA: As of April 7, 2020 the US government has not announced any automatic extension of authorized stay for any visa holders or visitors. If your B1/B2 or ESTA status will be expiring soon and you cannot safely depart the US, then please consider extending your status. This will allow you to remain in legal immigration status in the U.S. and avoid the possible cancellation of your ESTA or B1/B2 visa.
Customs and Border Protection has set forth procedures for those here on ESTA to extend their authorized stay in the US by 30 days on a case by case basis. ESTA extension requires applicants to show that they do have a ticket to depart the U.S.
RFE/NOID Deadlines Extended: For anyone who was issued a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) that is due between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020, USCIS has automatically extended the deadline to respond by 60 days.
Original Signatures Not Required: USCIS is accepting scanned and photocopied signatures in lieu of original signatures.
Extensions of Employment Authorization Documents: Renewals of Employment Authorization will be extended using previously submitted biometrics until normal operations resume.
Flexibility of I-9 Requirements: DHS announced temporary flexibility of the I-9 requirements on March 20, 2020, including deferring the physical presence requirement and permitting the review remotely (i.e. over video link, fax or email, etc. but require that employers retain copies of the documents.)
VISA CONSIDERATIONS FOR THOSE WHO
HAVE BEEN LAID OFF OR FURLOUGHED
USCIS has not announced any special rules to provide relief or considerations for visa holders who have lost their jobs during these unprecedented times. If you are a foreign national in the U.S. pursuant to a visa, you should continue to make an effort to comply with all the requirements and restrictions of that visa classification. There is NO SUSPENSION to this legal requirement. Any unauthorized employment or other status violations will render your visa invalid.
For example, if you have an agency-based O-1 visa authorized to work as an actor, and production has shut down temporarily, you may not do any work that is not acting.
For employment-based O-1 visa holders (and any other temporary visa holder who is sponsored by an employer, such as H, L and/or E visa holders), if you are in danger of losing your current employment or have already been let go temporarily or permanently, you may not work for any other employer.
In these cases, please do not do anything you think may jeopardize your visa status. Please contact us to discuss your options by clicking HERE
Unemployment Benefits and Visa Status
We understand that as a result of COVID-19 many visa holders have been laid off, furloughed, and projects have been cancelled. If this has happened to you,
you may have the following questions:
Do I qualify to collect unemployment benefits? and
If I do, will that harm my ability to get another visa or green card in the future?
1. Do I Qualify for Unemployment Benefits?
Historically, unemployment insurance has not been intended to cover independent contractors or self-employed people (unless they elect to pay in to the unemployment insurance program).
Unemployment has also always required that an applicant show that they are available to work. Most visa holders are only authorized to work for the company who sponsored them. Therefore, they are not available to work.
Agency-based O-1 visa holders are available to work within their field of expertise, but it is unclear as of the time of writing whether states’ unemployment programs will consider that availability sufficient for the purpose of collecting unemployment.
Whether foreign artists and other foreign workers will be allowed to collect unemployment benefits under the recently passed stimulus package remains to be seen. Please check your state's unemployment rules to see if you're eligible.
2. If I Do Qualify, Will Collecting Unemployment Disqualify Me from Getting
a Green Card or Visa in the Future?
The big issue with collecting unemployment is whether or not it will make you a (public charge) for immigration purposes. The USCIS Policy Manual says that unemployment is considered to be an (earned benefit) and therefore, collecting unemployment benefits will not, on its own, make you a public charge (see Paragraph B.1.): https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-8-part-g-chapter-10. However, this is a brand new rule, and we do not know how USCIS will regard this in the future.
GLOBAL TALENT UPDATES
Aside from the transition to working from home, it's business as usual at Global Talent Immigration Law Group. We continue to work diligently to produce the highest quality work product for our clients. With premium processing suspended, we continue to file cases and will upgrade them to premium processing when it becomes available again.
We will continue to send updates about the impact of coronavirus and the economic stimulus package on people at all stages of the immigration process, and we are here to answer any of your questions.
For important information about how to prepare and protect yourself please check for updates from the federal government, the CDC and FEMA.