Worldwide Suspension of Routine Visa Services Disrupts Work Visas
While COVID-19 continues to change the way companies are operating, employers are now facing another hurdle in bringing on talent or maintaining work authorization for employees. Department of State temporarily ceased all operations abroad, just two days after USCIS announced the closure of its field offices. To date, the U.S. Embassies and Consulates remain closed.
Employers Should Be Aware of Potential Work Disruptions:
Any cases that require consular processing (processing a work visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad) will not occur until the Department of State is cleared to resume work. At this time, it is not clear when routine visa appointments will be available again. For visa appointments that have been cancelled, the Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee will remain valid and may be used for visa appointment within one year of the date of payment.
1. Employers Should Plan Around the Suspension
Preparation is key. COVID-19 is causing delays across all industries including USCIS so employers should plan ahead and begin preparing for visa extensions in advance to avoid a disruption in work authorization. Do not plan on sending employees to the consulate for visa stamping.
2. International Personnel Should Not Leave the US
With the current travel restrictions and routine visa services suspended, we do not encourage non-essential travel outside of the US. Leaving the U.S. could mean being stuck abroad for an unknown period. Inability to return to the U.S. could have impact on employees maintaining their nonimmigrant statuses. The expiration of your employee’s U.S. visa does not dictate how long they can be in the United States. To confirm the employee’s departure date, please have your employee check their I-94 expiration date. If an extension of stay or adjustment of status needs to be filed, a petition with USCIS will need to be filed. Extensions for H-1B, TN, L-1, E, etc., as well as employment authorization documents (“EAD”) extensions can be filed with USCIS so that employees will not need to travel to extend their status.
3. Certain Exceptions will Apply
Applicants with urgent matters that need to travel immediately should follow guidelines provided by the Embassy to request emergency appointments. Urgent matters as prescribed by Department of State include air and sea crew, and medical personnel, particularly those working to treat or mitigate effects of COVID-19. Embassies and consulates will continue to provide critical visa services to the extent possible.
Employees looking to enter in TN status for essential US Employers can still do so through pre-flight inspection (not land borders). Please see our previous post on What Critical Infrastructure US Employers Need to Know about Travel Restrictions in the US-Canada Border : How Current and New TN Employees are Being Affected..
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NOT LEGAL ADVICE: This article is for educational purposes only, it is not legal advice that may be applicable to our situation
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is general information regarding law and policy that may be applicable to your particular HR issue or legal problem. Information provided in this blog, or any of our other public posts, does not create an attorney-client relationship. For specific advice you can rely upon, please contact your attorney.