By Demion McTair. Updated 4:05 p.m., Sunday, 19 April 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4)
Washington, United States (ONE NEWS SVG) – The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced several options, including a visa extension to Caribbean and other non-immigrants currently trapped in the US due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In its COVID-19 Delays in Extension/Change of Status Filings published on its website on April 13, the USCIS said “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 outlined several options available for non-immigrants, should overstays occur. According to the USCIS website, they include:
Apply for an Extension. Most nonimmigrants can mitigate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by timely 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.
If You File in a Timely Manner. 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.
Flexibility for Late Applications. USCIS reminds petitioners and applicants that it can consider delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when deciding whether to excuse delays in filing documents based on extraordinary circumstances.
Under current regulations and as noted on our 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 – the statement continued.
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 – the statement added.
Read the full statement on the USCIS website