US Visa: US allows visa extension for non-immigrants due to Covid-19 pandemic

Pune: Indian IT engineers working in the US whose H-1B visas whose visas are due to expire will now be able to stay on in the US for longer by applying for a visa extension. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that given the immigration related challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, non-immigrants could apply for an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) permit.

This comes as a relief to scores of Indians who are currently in the US on an H-1B visa which would be lapsing soon and who cannot fly back to India because of the travel bans in place currently. Not being able to file for an extension would have resulted in them becoming illegal immigrants in the US once the visa ends.

“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,” said the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in a media release on Monday.

Immigration lawyers said that while this move was welcome, it the visa extension should have happened automatically instead of requiring an additional application. Nandini Nair, an immigration attorney with Greenspoon Marder said that in case the application was not filed in time, then the applicant would have to submit ‘credible evidence’ as to the delay in filing. This would also come as a relief to immigrants in the US who may have recently lost their jobs as it buys them additional time to look for alternative employment in the US. Currently, Indians account for two-thirds of the H-1B visa holders in the US.

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