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. 

Pew Research Center – Foreign Graduates Are Staying in the U.S. for Employment

International students choose to study in the U.S. for many different reasons, and many choose to stay and work after they graduate from U.S. colleges and universities. The Pew Research Center analyzed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data and found that more and more high-skilled foreign graudates find jobs in the United States under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The OPT program provides an important opportunity for foreign graduates to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months or 36 months, depending on their field.  Many students choose to take advantage of the OPT programs to utilize the skills they learned.

The Pew Research Center found that the federal government approved nearly 700,000 OPT applications between 2008 and 2014. Below are the interesting findings:

  • The annual number of OPT approvals rose from 28,497 in 2008 to 136,617 in 2014.
  • Many of those working in the U.S. under the OPT program go on to apply for H-1B visas to stay longer in the U.S.
  • Those with STEM majors had a higher employment rate (73%) than non-STEM majors (57%).
  • Foreign students from India and China accounted for more than half (57%) of all those who were approved for OPT.

To read the full report by Neil Ruiz: click here.

微商微店会属于非法就业吗?

美国移民法律上来说,“就业”一词通常是指个人提供服务或劳动,并为这些服务支付报酬的关系。如果没有工作授权,接受任何服务的报酬可能导致违反签证状态。

移民上诉委员会认为自雇也是“就业”。因此,经营业务是违反非移民类签证的身份,比如是旅游签证,学生签证等等。另外来说,如果在在美国在外国公司工作,也是不允许的 – 任何在美国完成的工作,即使对于外国公司,即使支付给外国银行账户,仍然在美国被视为“就业”,必须要有授业文件。这样来说的话,在美国境内的微商微店都可能触犯非法就业。

在没有工作授权的情况下,持非移民性签证的人可能可以在美国当志愿者或者被动地投资在美国。临时签证持有人可以管理自己的投资,如股票和物业,甚至可以购买正在经营的业务,只要他/她不提供任何劳动或服务,并且不积极经营业务。但是,每个签证都是为特定目的签发的,而且签证持有人预计将花大部分时间从事签发签证的活动。如果没有工作授权,投资管理,和志愿服务应该仍然是临时签证持有人在美国的经验的外围组成部分。

未经授权的雇佣:1)可能违反了非移民签证身份; 2)可能导致逮捕,并可能从美国递解出境; 3)将导致拒绝延长或改变签证; 4)可能在几年后发现签证申请人犯有签证欺诈行为,从而无法转变绿卡; 5)如果加上在I-9表格上对美国公民身份作假,可以导致永久不可受理公民申请递解出境,没有豁免可用。