Can’t Travel, Visa Expires, What Do I Do Now?

A lot of people stuck abroad have experienced panicking moments in the past two weeks when flights are cancelled and borders are closed due to the #COVID-19 shutdown. In March, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced that immigrant (IV) and nonimmigrant visa (NIV) appointments at ALL Consulates are suspended due to coronavirus. Many countries are also restricting exiting and entering in order to control spread of the pandemic.
So what does this mean when my visa expires? 
These travel restrictions have made family unity and returning to work difficult, if not impossible. Employers are now in the dark with no specific return date for their valued employees and facing uncertainties as to their future needs. Since many visas have a maximum period allowed pursuant to regulation, consular officers do not have the authority to extend visa validity. However, the consular may be able to re-print a visa once travel becomes possible.
Consulates are able to re-issue a new visa provided that all supporting documents, such as police certificates, medical examinations, etc., have not expired. If the supporting documents have expired,  the applicant will be required to obtain new copies prior to the re-issuance of the new visa. Applicants will have to contact the consulate for the re-issuance and different consulate has different procedures. 
For people who are stuck in the U.S. either on valid visas or during grace period, but are not able to leave the U.S. to return to their home countries, options are also limited. Many have applied to extend or change their status using the Form I-539, but this also comes with a hefty fee. Others are banking on the fact that a brief overstay won’t be too problematic if it is limited to 180 days.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has filed a complaint against USCIS calling for the immediate suspension of immigration benefit deadlines and the maintenance of status for nonimmigrants in the U.S. in light of the pandemic, urging USCIS to extend its filing deadlines so that lawfully present foreign nationals in the United States can maintain status during the pandemic.
While we wait for the outcome of this lawsuit, we urge everyone to stay tuned and take care of yourselves. 

COVID 19 – Unemployment Benefits for Immigrant Workers

immigrant’s eligibility for unemployment benefits and consequences on green cards

Question: Do I, as an immigrant, qualify for unemployment benefits if the coronavirus (COVID-19) causes me losing my job?

Answer: Yes, however, immigrant workers must satisfy the same requirements for #unemployment. You must be unemployed due to no fault of your own, and you must have earned enough wages or worked enough hours in your “base period” to qualify. If you are currently employed or if you quit, then you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.  If your employer offers sick leave to address COVID-19 in lieu of layoffs, you cannot quit on your own volition to get unemployment benefits. If an employer shuts down operations temporarily and no work is available, you are eligible for unemployment.

Question: If I cannot go to work because I quarantined myself, can I get unemployment?

Answer: MaybeIf your employer allows you to work remotely and you choose not to accept that work, you are not qualify. If the employer requires you to stay home but did not offer work from home, then you might be eligible for benefits.

Question: How much is unemployment?

Answer: Depends on your state law and the reason why you cannot go to work. In addition, Pandemic Federal Unemployment Compensation  allows an additional  $600 on top of weekly unemployment benefits for up to four (4) months, not to exceed July 31, 2020.

Question: Does unemployment benefits hurt my green card #adjustment of status application in the future?

Answer: USCIS does not consider “unemployment” in the public charge inadmissibility determination because they are considered earned benefits through the person’s employment. Unemployment is a type of insurance that employers pay into. This isn’t taxpayer money, so it does not affect your green card.

Question: If I am undocumented, do I get #unemployment benefits?

Answer: If you are undocumented, chances are you do not have valid employment authorization or valid SSN, then you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Question: I applied for work authorization extension and have not yet received my new work card, can I get unemployment benefits?

Answer: If you have proof that you have applied for an extension, you might allowed to receive benefits. 

File unemployment with the Missouri Department of Labor here.

File unemployment with the Kansas Department of Labor here.