Hi Everyone,

Just checking in with everyone. Hope you're all doing well, and you and your families are safe and healthy.

Is your non-immigrant status expiring? Did you have plans to depart the U.S. but now international travel is not advised or even your country's airport is closed? Were you on a work visa, but now you are out of a job? Are you worried to be out of status while you continue to shelter in place in the U.S.? 

These are just some of the questions I have been answering the last couple of weeks. I hope to provide some general guidance on available options. Of course, everyone is different and has a different immigration history, which may impact eligibility of the benefits discussed here. So, do call us to schedule a one-on-one consultation to discuss your specific situation (408-740-3474) or use our scheduling link to book an appointment. Also, check out our website and our blog for case-type information.

Extension/Change of Status

For the most part, someone in a non-immigrant status [e.g., B-1/B-2 for visitors, F-1 for students, J-1 for exchange students/trainees/au pairs, and Ls-Hs-Es (work visas)] who no longer can satisfy the conditions of the non-immigrant status, should consider departing the U.S. This will help avoid being in violation and/or accrual of unlawful presence (which could have a severe negative effect on future visits to the U.S.).

When departing the U.S. is not feasible, such as in the current global crisis, an extension or change of your status may be possible. Of course, you are still required to independently qualify for the extension or change of status. At a minimum, you must not already be in violation such as having already over-stayed your permitted allowance of time granted for your visit. If you are in this situation, call us, because USCIS has circulated a policy for " special situations" which says, on a case by case basis, they may grant some leniency, given the person's situation. This policy is not new due to the Covid-19 pandemic; rather, it is a humanitarian policy USCIS already had in place, for special situations.  Our attorneys can help assess your "special situation" and help you present the best case possible to increase your chance of approval.

Grace Periods

Many have also asked, when is the soonest they should start their change/extension of status application? My general response is, as soon as you know you have the need. Generally, there is no grace period for B-1/B-2 visitors. If you are a student, depending on if you got kicked out of school or your OPT ended, you may or may not have any grace period. So, as soon as you know you are not going to be able to depart the U.S. before the expiration of your stay, you should consider filing for an extension or change of status.  

Some work visas do have a grace period, such as H-1B, L-1, E-1/E-2, TN. These visa holders have a 60-day grace period after cessation of their employment (just so there is no misunderstanding, if you're reaching the end of your authorized employment date – i.e., rather than being terminated -- then you only have a 10 day grace period). See the 2017 new rule from DHS.

An option for these work visa holders, if you have lost your job or the business underlying your visa eligibility is now closed, is to use the 60 days to find another job opportunity. If your spouse is on their own independent work visa, consider also filing a change of status to a dependent visa (such as to a H-4, L-2, E-1/E-2 spouse, TD).  A last ditch effort to maintain status is to change your status to that of a B-2 tourist, in order to close out your affairs in the U.S. and depart when it is safe to do so.

How Much Time Would I Get?  

The amount of time you are permitted on your extended status or changed status depends on the status. For B-2 tourists, per regulations, you may only ask for 6 months at a time. So be very alert to when that date might be approaching, even if your application is still pending. USCIS, when approving the B-2 status, will only give you up to 6 months from the time your original stay expires(d).

Lots of questions re unemployment, reduced work hours or pay

See our prior emails regarding questions on unemployment. Last week we discussed unemployment benefits (CA) for those on work visas. https://conta.cc/2X2ivsT

Previously, we discussed unemployment benefit eligibility generally, and how those working on EADs or on a status NOT dependent on an employer (see my blog discussion).

Let us know how you're doing and if we can help you.

Your team at
Yew Immigration Law Group, a P.C.