COVID-19 has given rise to business complications related to closing physical office spaces, furloughing employees, and terminating employees, to name a few. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, and the Department of State have worked to address the resulting immigration complications to support the needs of U.S. businesses and foreign nationals during this unprecedented time.
Because the pandemic has affected foreign-born workers and their families, on April 17 a group of business immigration advocates sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of State, the Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director of USCIS, calling for the following actions and stating the basis for each request:
- Automatically extend expiration dates and deadlines to renew statuses until at least Sept. 10, 2020. – With in-person services suspended, biometrics cannot be taken for a number of applications that require them, and interviews cannot be conducted, resulting in a delay of adjudication. In addition, work authorization validity dates may lapse with the suspension of premium processing for a number of non-immigrant petitions, thus not allowing employees to onboard or extend statuses in a timely manner.
- Forgive unlawful presence accrued by furloughed workers and those who stay beyond their statuses; also forgive extended absences for lawful permanent residences. – With many travel restrictions in place, not just for the United States, but also for other countries worldwide, people may not move in and out of the U.S. and other countries as easily. This may result in an accrual of unlawful presence for those in the United States who must leave; statuses may be expired, work may be terminated and they are no longer working pursuant to their visa, or others may be staying longer than they are normally allowed because of the inability to travel. On the other hand, lawful permanent residents residing abroad are now forced to stay abroad longer than anticipated; this may lead DHS to deem these individuals to have abandoned their LPR intent.
- Add flexibility to continue processing essential worker visas, to include health care workers and farmworkers – Delayed visa processing and closures of consular posts means that temporary workers set to enter the U.S. to work are now unable to do so. The hospital and agricultural systems in the U.S. rely on these workers. These organizations ask that USCIS take over the processing so that these workers can come into the country to help relieve the current workforce.
This letter has been signed by:
Americans for Prosperity
American Immigration Council
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Association for Health Care Agencies
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Essential Worker Immigration Coalition
Hispanic Leadership Fund
Idaho Dairymen’s Association
Information Technology Industry Council
The Libre Initiative
National Association of Evangelicals
NALEO Educational Fund
National Immigration Forum
New American Economy
President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration