USCIS Guidance for COS and VWP Entrants During Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On April 13, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published informal guidance regarding certain immigration services during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak [PDF version]. We will go through some of the highlights of the guidance in this post.

Extension of Stay and Change of Status Applications

The USCIS continues to accept and process applications and petitions, including applications for extension of stay and change of status. Many applications and petitions may be filed online.

Aliens who timely file for extension of stay or change of status normally do not accrue unlawful presence. Certain aliens are eligible for continued employment authorization for a period of 240 days, depending on the nonimmigrant work visa category and case-specific circumstances [see article].

The USCIS may, in its discretion, excuse late filings based on extraordinary circumstances. It notes that it may consider whether circumstances relating to the coronavirus outbreak may excuse a late filing due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the alien's control in particular cases. However — there is no blanket provision excusing late filings due to the coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, “[t]he length of delay must be commensurate with the circumstances.” If an alien files late due to the coronavirus outbreak, he or she must submit evidence explaining the late filing.

Visa Waiver Program Entrants

Aliens who enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible to extend their stay or change status. However, in cases of emergency, the USCIS may grant a 30-day period for satisfactory departure in individual cases. If that 30-day period is not sufficient for an alien to depart in a particular case due to the coronavirus outbreak, the USCIS may, in its discretion, grant an additional 30-day satisfactory departure period. Visa Waiver Program entrants should call the USCIS contact center to request satisfactory departure.

USCIS Guidance for COS and VWP Entrants During Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak