Understanding the immigration process is difficult, even when times are good. Add a global pandemic to the equation and things get a little more difficult to understand. Maybe you are in the United States and your VISA is expiring, what do you do? Do you overstay?
It is important to understand the risks of overstaying your VISA. If you overstay your VISA worst case is that you are ineligible for any future visas and prevented any future trips to the United States. In most cases overstaying between 180 to 365 days can cause you to be restricted from returning to the US for about 10 years. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic it is not so easy to just book the next flight back to your home country.
If you are caught in the United States due to the pandemic and unable to get a flight home, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has set some protocol for you to follow and if you have a more complicated case it would be wise to seek the counsel of an Immigration Attorney.
These are your options:
- Apply for an Extension - If you planned to extend your visa, move forward as planned, applications are still being accepted and can be filed online. Be sure to apply before your visa expires. If for some reason you missed your expiration date be prepared to provide “credible evidence” of circumstances out of your control.
- 60-Days - This rule gives you 60 days from the time of layoff or termination to find another place of employment or leave the United States. This is not a new immigration rule and it applies to those holding E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 and TN visas. It is not expected that you work during these 60 days but rather provide you the time to find another employer who can file an extension of your visa. While being terminated gives you a 60 day grace period if your visa is expiring you only have 10 days to leave the country after expiration. If you find yourself in this position (your visa is expiring and you only have 10 days to leave the United States) it is advisable to contact an immigration attorney to discuss your options.
- Visa Waiver Program - This is the program that allows foreigners from 39 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for 90 days max with the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The ESTA is not a visa, so technically a status change cannot be applied or an extension cannot be granted. However, in an emergency situation like the Covid Crisis USCIS can grant the traveler an additional 30 days to leave the country. If you find yourself in this situation be sure to contact the USCIS Contact Center for more information.
Obtain the Help of an Immigration Attorney if you Overstayed Due to Coronavirus
Don’t let the Covid-19 Crisis negatively affect your immigration status. Consult with a US Immigration attorney and avoid possible violations of your stay. Contact The Gambacorta Law Office at 847-443-9303, for legal advice. We are happy to help you with all your immigration questions.