Nonimmigrant Status Management at Times of COVID-19 Lay-Offs and Satisfactory Departure

•  Individuals on employment-based work visas (H-1Bs, TNs, E-1s, E-2s, E-3s, O-1s, L-1s) who are suddenly laid off due to the impact of COVID-19 can still afford themselves a one-time 60 day grace period to change status to another employer-sponsored visa or apply for visitor’s or student status in order to maintain status in the U.S. The grace period, for example, allows such nonimmigrants to remain in the United States without violating their status and potentially obtain new job offers from employers that seek to file new nonimmigrant petitions, and requests for an extension of stay, on their behalf. Eligible workers can be granted a grace period of either up to 60 days after the end date of employment, or until the end date of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter. This grace period can provide extra time for planning to either find other employment, prepare to depart the U.S. or apply for a change of status before it is necessary for the individual to leave the U.S., and it can provide time for workers to find new employment without being penalized for situations outside of their control such as loss of employment due to COVID-19.

•  Individuals admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) have a maximum 90 day stay in the U.S. with no provisions in the law allowing for an extension of stay. However, for those individuals under the VWP who find themselves unable to depart before their current period of stay expires due to exigent circumstances, both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have discretionary authority to process Satisfactory Departure requests which grant an individual a period of 30 days in which to depart the U.S. without being considered to have overstayed their allotted time. This ability to request additional time is very beneficial because overstaying past the 90 day period of stay results in the cancellation of the individual’s VWP eligibility and requires the individual to reapply for VWP eligibility.

Contact your immigration attorney to find out more information about these options. For additional information and updates related to COVID-19, please visit Munsch Hardt’s COVID-19 Business Response Team Page.