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NRIs in US Can Now Seek 4-month Extension on H-1B Visas amidst Unemployment

In US, unemployment claims soared by a whopping 3000%. In early March, NRIs, fearing the massive layoff that were starting to occur, had appealed to Trump Administration for extension of post-job loss stay limit, of H-1B visa holders, from 60 to 180 days.

Now, it seems that their desperate pleas have been answered as the Indian Government and IT trade Association, NASSCOM, backed them up with additional requests. H-1B visa holders – three-fourths of whom are Indian – can now apply for a 4-month extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS). Other non-immigrant visa holders, whose visas have either expired or are due to expire, can now do the same.

On 13th April, in a statement, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that at the back of coronavirus crisis, non-immigrants can mitigate immigration consequences such as deportation by applying for an extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS).

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Companies depend on these rules to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

Under previous regulations, H-1B workers had a 60-day grace period of unemployment time, to legally stay in USA. They had to find new work within those 60 days or face deportation. NRIs’ petition had said that they cannot travel home with children who are US Citizens as many nations have announced an entry ban, including India.

With some companies already informing their H-1B employees that they are on top of the list of being fired, this change in federal regulation come as a relief to techie NRIs as H-1B visa holders are not eligible to unemployment benefits. They are also not entitled to social security benefits, even though a part of their salary is deducted for this purpose.

Non-immigrants require EOS and COS documents to stay in USA without a job. Extension of Stay extends your existing visa for a specified time period, whereas COS helps apply for a change in visa status, such as from H-1B/H4(specialized worker visa) to B2 (visitor visa).

In the statement, they added, “The US Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing.”

One can now authorize their employment with their employer, subject to same terms and conditions of prior approval, up to 240 days after I-94 Visa (proof of legal entry to US) expiration, if they filed an Extension of Stay request on time. This duration has been automatically extended due to the change in EOS regulations.

Apart from US, European Union and United Kingdom, regions with substantial Indian population, have announced a similar kind of extension for visas of foreign nationals, as well.

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