The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a press statement issued on Monday, stated that it would be making considerations to delays in extension/change of status filings. The USCIS mentions that it recognizes that there are immigration-related challenges as a direct result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and it will carefully analyze these issues to leverage their resources to effectively address challenges within their existing system.
“Generally, nonimmigrants must depart the United States before their authorized period of admission expires. However, we recognize that nonimmigrants may unexpectedly remain in the United States beyond their authorized period of stay due to COVID-19,” the USCIS explains. Should this occur nonimmigrants requested to do the following things:
Apply for an Extension:
Most nonimmigrants can eliminate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by filing an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing.
File in a Timely Manner:
Whether there is a crisis or not there is nothing safer than to file for a visa extension on time. Where applicable, employment authorization with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time.
Flexibility for Late Applications:
The USCIS has also stated that it will consider delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when deciding whether to excuse delays in filing documents based on extraordinary circumstances or not.
Under current regulations and as noted on the USCIS Special Situations page, if a petitioner or applicant files an extension of stay or change of status request (on Forms I-129 or I-539) after the authorized period of admission expires, USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file on time if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, such as those that may be caused by COVID-19.
No Flexibility for Visa Waiver Entrants:
Meanwhile, the USCIS has made it clear that non-immigrants on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) entrants are not eligible to extend their stay or change status. However, under current regulations, if an emergency (such as COVID-19) prevents the departure of a VWP entrant, USCIS in its discretion may grant them a period of satisfactory departure for up to 30 days.
For those VWP entrants already granted satisfactory departure and unable to depart within these 30 days because of COVID-19 related issues, USCIS has the authority to temporarily provide an additional 30-day period of satisfactory departure.