Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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r/immigration – Coronavirus FAQ: Stimulus checks, visa holders, existing applications, etc.


This sub has seen the same questions over and over, and I thought it fit to organize some of the most common questions and answers into one place. If anything, this can be linked to if people ask the same questions again.

Note: This is not legal advice and is collated from sources quoted below. Refer to an immigration lawyer if in doubt.

FAQ Sections

 

Temporary visitors (B/F/J/ESTA/etc)

Q: I’m here on an ESTA/VWP and I can’t leave – what can I do?

You can apply for Satisfactory Departure at a CBP office at select airports, which will give you 30 extra days to leave.

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/cbp-updates-satisfactory-departure-process-travelers-forced-to-remain-united-states

There are no provisions in law for a further extension, and you are not eligible to change, extend or adjust status (unless married to, or parent of, a US citizen).

 

Q: I’m here on an expiring temporary status (B, J, H, F, etc) and I can’t leave – what can I do?

You can apply for an extension of status if you continue to be eligible for your status by filing I-539 with USCIS. If you are no longer eligible for your status (e.g. study ended for F status), you can apply for a 6 or 12 month change of status to that of B-2 (pleasure). You may cite the ongoing crisis and difficulty of obtaining flights to depart as a reason for applying for a change/extension of status.

https://www.uscis.gov/i-539

 

Work visas

Q: I’m on a work visa and my hours were cut OR my pay was reduced OR placed on no-pay leave OR furloughed. Can I stay?

For nearly all work visas, any reduction of your hours or pay is functionally equivalent to a lay off. The only exception is if your LCA or petition specified an hourly wage instead of an annual wage; in this a reduction of hours may be acceptable (though you should check with your company’s lawyers).

You may have a 60 day grace period, and if you wish to stay, look at the next question.

 

Q: I’m on a E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, and TN and got laid off – what can I do?

You have a 60 day grace period before you have to depart.

You have a couple of options, and you MUST pick one before the end of the grace period:

  • Depart the United States

  • For most work visas (except L-1), you can find a new job and have your employer file an I-129. You cannot start work until it is approved (3-10 months), unless you’re on the H-1B.

  • Apply for adjustment of status (if eligible) through marriage or work.

  • Apply for a change of status to B with form I-539. Once approved, you can change back to a work visa status again with the I-129.

  • Apply for a change of status to F for a course of study.

 

Q: Is premium processing available?

No, it has been suspended until further notice. https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/uscis-announces-temporary-suspension-premium-processing-all-i-129-and-i-140-petitions-due-coronavirus-pandemic

 

Q: Can I have the 60 day grace period extended?

Not currently. It does not appear there are any plans to extend it either.

 

Outside the US

Q: I’m outside the US, can I enter?

There are many travel restrictions right now, and you’re advised to defer travel unless absolutely necessary. Any flight may be extremely costly and subject to a high risk of cancellation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_the_United_States#Travel_and_entry_restrictions

Individuals who were in the following countries in the last 14 days are banned from entry: China, Europe Schengen countries, UK, Ireland, Iran. This is not a nationality ban; you can travel to a third country for 14 days before proceeding to the US.

Furthermore, the US-Canada border is closed except to essential travel and citizens returning to their own countries. Note that travel for work (e.g. TN) is considered essential.

Additionally, note that the following groups of people are EXCLUDED from any travel ban:

  • US citizens (USC)

  • US lawful permanent residents (LPR)

  • Immediate family of USC/LPR (spouses, minor children)

 

Q: I need a visa, how can I get one now?

The short of it is – you can’t. US embassies worldwide are closed until further notice. If there is a legitimate emergency, you can contact the embassy directly.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

 

Q: I’m applying for a nonimmigrant/immigrant visa, will my application be delayed?

It will definitely be delayed. While embassies are closed, demand continues to build. One can definitely expect a huge backlog once the embassies reopen.

 

Q: I had an appointment but the embassy is closed, what happens?

Pay close attention to communications from the embassy via e-mail or their website. Each embassy can set its own policies; your appointment may be automatically rescheduled or you need to manually reschedule.

 

Existing Applications/USCIS

Q: I have an existing application with USCIS, will it be processed or delayed?

USCIS remains open to process applications, but all in-person services are suspended until at least May 3 (likely longer).

Look at the table below to figure out if your application will continue processing:

Form Biometrics Required Interview Required Processing
I-765 AOS/DACA/etc Yes No Yes if you have biometrics submitted for any application before, including current one
I-131 Yes No Yes if you have submitted biometrics for this application
I-485 Yes Yes Yes if you have submitted biometrics AND interview for this application
I-129 No No Yes
I-539 Yes No Yes if you have submitted biometrics for this application
I-130 Maybe Maybe Yes

If your application does not require an in-person appointment OR you have already attended it, you can expect USCIS to continue processing it.

Be prepared for delays: USCIS is going remote work and they may not be well setup for it. They’re also likely to get a surge in applications for extensions of stay and change of employment.

https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-coronavirus-2019-covid-19

 

Q: My (biometrics/interview) appointment was cancelled, what do I need to do?

Check your mail once USCIS re-opens, your appointment will be rescheduled automatically.

 

Stimulus Check

Q: Am I eligible for the coronavirus stimulus check?

If you are a legal US tax resident with an SSN and income, you are eligible. This includes permanent residents, work visa holders, DACA, and more. People who aren’t eligible include those without an SSN, F-1 students present for less than 5 years, and J-1 present for less than 2 years (exceptions apply).

You must further meet these non-immigration requirements:

  • Make less than $75,000 to get the full check (doubled if married)

  • Make less than $100,000 to get anything at all (doubled if married)

  • Not be filed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return

  • Filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return with IRS as a resident alien for you to get the stimulus check as a direct deposit automatically

[For stimulus check public charge, look at the public charge section]

 

Unemployment

Q: Am I eligible for unemployment?

If you are authorized to work for any employer, you are eligible for unemployment. This includes permanent residents, DACA, TPS, asylees, refugees and certain dependent visa holders with unrestricted EADs.

Generally speaking, those who are on work visas tied to an employer (e.g. H-1B, L-1, TN) are not eligible for unemployment. This is because a condition of receiving unemployment is being “able and willing to work”; however since you do not have work authorization to start a job with any employer, you are not “able to work”.

[For unemployment public charge, look at the public charge section]

 

Public Charge

Q: Is the coronavirus stimulus check considered public charge?

No. The coronavirus stimulus check is actually a 2020 tax credit paid in advance, and thus does not fall under any benefit category in the public charge rule.

Refer to quoted section from: https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-8-part-g-chapter-10#S-A-2

In addition to the cash benefits for income maintenance identified in the rule (SSI, TANF and GA), USCIS considers any other federal, state, and local tribal cash assistance for income maintenance (other than tax credits).

 

Q: Is unemployment (state, or federal $600/week) considered public charge?

No. USCIS specifically excludes unemployment from public charge.

Quoted from https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-8-part-g-chapter-10

The following is a non-exhaustive list of public benefits that USCIS does not consider in the public charge inadmissibility determination as they are considered earned benefits:

 

Q: Is the use of free coronavirus testing, treatment programs or Medicaid for coronavirus treatment considered public charge?

No, refer to quoted section from: https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge

To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services, USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).



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