Unemployment Benefits

If a green card holder, you are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. However, if you are on a work-authorized visa, e.g. an E-2, O-1 or an L-1 visa, there is some difference because these are nonimmigrant visas. Please contact us for further information.

USCIS

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is open for business and accepting cases. They are not at full capacity because they are no longer accommodating in-person appointments (all biometrics appointments, in-person interviews and court hearings are cancelled) but they are accepting visa applications (visa types listed below) as well as extensions of status. USCIS offices will reopen on May 4th, unless the public closures are extended further.

There are some strong positives – particularly that USCIS is modernizing to keep up with these unprecedented times to allow for electronic signatures in new filings. It is therefore no longer a requirement to print, sign with an original signature and mail in – thereby saving time and resources in this area.

Other changes include the suspension of Premium Processing for certain visa categories, since March 20th. This means that cases that would’ve previously qualified for review and adjudication within 15 days (for certain nonimmigrant visa categories: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN) may now take up to 4-5 months for adjudication.

In addition, USCIS is allowing further leeway by granting an additional 60 days for RFE responses and NOIDs that are dated between March 1st and May 1st.

Please note, these perks are not like an Oprah give-away. USCIS is not giving away work authorizations so please be careful whose advice you buy, and contact us for further information.

Consulates

Consulates are closed. All April interviews have been cancelled, with consulate posts sending notifications and rescheduling in-person appointments.

ESTA and Visa Waiver Program

Some Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices across the country are accepting extension requests on a case by case basis for people who entered using ESTA and are having trouble returning home. In such cases, ensure proper recording and documentation, particularly by saving cancellations from airlines and any documentation that details the reason behind the travel restriction being due to coronavirus.

Borders

Several countries have closed down their borders, barring exceptional circumstances of humanitarian cases. According to the Pew Research Center and United Nations population data, at least nine-tenths (93%) of the world’s population, or 7.2 billion people, live in countries with restrictions on people arriving from other countries who are neither citizens nor residents, such as tourists, business travelers and new immigrants. Roughly 3 billion people, or 39%, live in countries with borders completely closed to noncitizens and nonresidents.

For questions on these issues or further guidance on your business and personal immigration, contact Managing Attorney Afsha Randera  by email at arandera@sullivanattorneys.com.