US allows visa extension for H-1B visa holders, tourists

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Indian IT engineers working in the United States whose H-1B visas are due to expire can extend their stay for up to eight months by applying for a visa extension because of the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent travel restrictions.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that given the immigration related-challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, non-immigrants could apply for an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) permit.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that given the immigration related-challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, non-immigrants could apply for an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) permit.

However, immigration lawyers pointed out that this provision already existed and no additional flexibility had been allowed for the current situation.

“Non-immigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while the timely-filed, non-frivolous EOS/COS application is pending,” United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a media release on Monday. “Where applicable, employment authorisation with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time.”

Indian software industry body Nasscom, which has been lobbying for more flexibility around immigration policies, however, said the memo merely restates existing policy and does not offer any special Covid-19 relief for non-immigrants seeking a change or extension of stay

“The ‘up to’ is meant to carry the person through the adjudication of his/her extension petition. This is the current policy,” said Shivendra Singh, vice president, global trade, at Nasscom. “In those cases where the visa expired and the above criteria were not met, the guidance does not provide any relief per se. It does instead say that the agency has discretionary authority that it may decide to exercise on a case-by-case basis. In other words, the sponsor must file a detailed petition explai ..