The coronavirus outbreak caused unemployment in the United States to jump to 14.7%, with 20.5 million people losing jobs in just the month of April.  With businesses closing left and right, international travel banned and restricted for many countries, and the new 60-day Green Card ban that began April 23rd, many H-1B and I-140 employees and their families are facing a confusion, stressful, and impossible situation.

At CCI TheDegreePeople.com, we always do our best to face impossible situations armed with up to date information and find a range of solutions that work.  Here are some of the most common questions we have been getting over the past month; we hope our answers can shed light on your situation, and help you find the solution that works best for you.

Will I be impacted by Trump’s Green Card Ban?

If you were in the United States on April 23rd and have an I-140 petition, this will not affect you.  Those already in the United States seeking permanent residence will not be impacted by this ban, and the ban does not currently impact those with H-1B visa status.

COVID-19 has affected my job, but I want to retain my status and employer.  What are my options?

H-1B employees who want to keep their status but cannot work due to COVID-19 are not eligible to apply for unemployment and cannot be laid off and retain H-1B status.  Employers do have options for retaining H-1B workers during this pandemic.  H-1B employees can be benched with salary or furloughed.  Since H-1B rules require employers to give H-1B workers the same benefits as US nationals they employ, medical leave and paid time off may also be options available for H-1B workers who want to retain H-1B status with their current employer.

I was laid off from my H-1B job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I have an I-140 petition and am on EB backlog.  What are my options?

If you are currently in EB-3 or EB-2 backlog and you have lost your H-1B job due to COVID-19, you can file an Employment Authorization Document under the category of compelling circumstances.  This can be renewed annually.  However, you should not rely on COVID-19 to be your compelling circumstance.  Definitely include this reason when you file your document, but use another reason for the primary compelling circumstance. 

If your H-1B employer still wants to sponsor your green card and has filed an I-140 on your behalf, but had to lay you off from your H-1B job, they can still continue with your I-140 since it is based on prospective employment.  When your employer can rehire you, they can file another H-1B petition on your behalf which will not be counted against the cap, and you will able to apply for three-year extensions, even beyond the limit of six years.

If have H-1B status and your I-140 employer had to close or remove your position due to COVID-19, you can still retain your priority date with a new I-140 employer.  This new employer can file an H-1B petition on your behalf in the meantime, and this petition will not be counted against the cap.  You will be able to apply for three-year extensions beyond the six-year limit.

Your H-1B employer also has the option to bench you with salary, furlough you, or give you paid time off or medical leave, or any applicable CARES Act payroll protection assistance they qualify for and have received.

I was laid off from my H-1B job due to COVID-19 and want to stay in the country, but do not have an I-140.  What are my options?

You have a 60-day grace period to stay in the country under H-1B visa status.  If you spent time outside of the United States during the H-1B period, USCIS offers buyback time which you can also use to cushion yourself for your next move.  If possible, you can find another H-1B employer and your new petition will not be counted against the cap.  Other options include changing to B-1 temporary business visitor visa status, for F-1 if taking this time to further your education in the United States is a good option for you and your family. 

I was laid off from my H-1B job and want to leave the country but cannot leave due to international travel restrictions.  What are my options?

This is the sticky situation many have found themselves in.  Remember, you have a 60-day grace period and you may have buyback time, but this will only get you so far in these uncertain times.  We recommend you request a change of status to B-2 visitor before your grace period is up, extending your stay for six months through filing a Form I-539. 

We are happy to help you find the answers to any questions you may have regarding the impact of COVID-19 on your visa status.  If you must file another H-1B petition for a new employer or extension, time is of the essence.  For this reason, we are waiving 72-hour rush delivery fees for the month of May for expert letters and academic evaluations.  Our full staff is working remotely and fully operational, ready to help you 24/7.

For a free review of your case, visit ccifree.com.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

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