Non-immigrants can now apply for an Extension of Stay [EOS] if they have to unexpectedly remain in the US beyond their authorized period of stay because of COVID-19. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] has issued a News Alert in this regard.
The relaxation comes in view of the recognition of the “immigration-related challenges as a direct result of the coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic”.
Anyone finding themselves in a situation wherein they are unable to depart the US due to the current situation have certain options available before them.
Applying for an extension
USCIS continues to accept as well as process petitions and applications. A non-immigrant that has to exit the US but is unable to travel due to COVID-19 special measures, can file an application for an Extension of Stay [EOS] or Change in Status [COS].
Many of USCIS forms are available for being filed online.
Filing on time
No unlawful presence is accrued to the non-immigrant when the EOS or COS application is pending. For this, the EOS or COS application must have been “timely-filed, non-frivolous”.
When a request for the extension of stay in the US is filed timely following the expiration of I-94: Arrival/Departure Record, wherever applicable, the employment authorization with the same employer will be automatically extended for up to 240 days. The automatic extension will be subject to the terms and conditions as in the prior approval.
Delays in filing applications might be considered
USCIS has reminded applicants and petitioners that delays caused by the COVID-19 might be considered. As per USCIS, this will be considered as delay in filing documents due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control.
As per current regulations, if EOS or COS request is filed – on Forms I-129: Petition for a non-immigrant worker, or I-539: Application to extend/change non-immigrant status – USCIS can excuse failure to file on time after the authorized period of admission expires.
For excusing the delay in filing, the delay must be due to extraordinary circumstances that are beyond their control. COVID-19 will be considered as such.
The applicant or petitioner will be expected to submit credible evidence for supporting their request. The length of delay must be corresponding to the circumstances.
USCIS will evaluate such requests on a case-by-case basis.
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