In the wake of the current Coronavirus crisis, the US has decided to relax H-1B visa, other non-immigrant visa deadlines. The decision comes days after the Indian government got in touch with the US government for extending the validity of the visa of Indian nationals
(H1-B and other types of visa holders) who are stranded in America because of the pandemic.

What is H-1B visa?

The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows the USA companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Indians working in the US on H-1B visa were worried because several companies are laying off employees due to the pandemic and skilled workers with H1-B visa who are either unemployed as of now or maybe sacked have just 60 days to find a new job get deported.

H1-B visa, other non-immigrant visa extended:

However, in a statement released on Monday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said, at the back of coronavirus crisis, non-immigrants can mitigate immigration consequences such as deportation by applying for an extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS). People on H-1B visa who lose jobs can now stay in the US for 8 months instead of 60 days earlier.

Extension of Stay, Change of visa status:

It is worth mentioning that EOS and COS documents are necessary for non-immigrants in order stay in the US. Extension of stay (EOS), as the name suggests means extending your existing visa for a time period. COS means changing your visa status, for instance from H-1B/H4 to B2 (visitor visa) in cases where you were unable to find employment but needed to stay in the country.

USCIS stated, "Nonimmigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while the timely-filed, non-frivolous EOS/COS application is pending.  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."

As per the USCIS website, 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 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. 

It added, "The length of delay must be commensurate with the circumstances. The petitioner or applicant must submit credible evidence to support their request, which USCIS will evaluate on a case-by-case basis. These special situations have been used at various times in the past, including for natural disasters and similar crises."

Visa Waiver Program:

It further informed people that 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 a period of satisfactory departure for up to 30 days. "For those VWP entrants already granted satisfactory departure and unable to depart within this 30-day period because of COVID-19 related issues, USCIS has the authority to temporarily provide an additional 30-day period of satisfactory departure," it said. 

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