If you are a foreign national who was unable to go back to your country due to the coronavirus pandemic, you probably have a ton of questions not just on your program of study but also on your visa validity and how you may be needing an extension or adjustment of status. Indeed, government efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 have led to restrictions in travel plans and U.S. immigration procedures. Read on to learn more about the updates on nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
U.S. Travel and Immigration Process
President Trump signed an executive order on April 22 to temporarily suspend the release of green cards to immigrants outside the United States. Travel to the U.S. remains on standstill with a travel ban for temporary visa holders coming from China, Iran, European Schengen Area, U.K, Ireland, or Brazil, regions identified to be highly affected by the global pandemic.
Moreover, a proclamation released on June 22, also suspended the entry of the following aliens which may present as a health risk:
- H-1B and H-2b visa holders and their alien family-member/companion
- J-1 visa holders participating in a program as interns or trainees, teachers, counselors, au pair, or summer worker, along with their companions.
- L-1 visa holders and aliens accompanying them
Visa applicants outside the U.S. If you are thinking about your U.S. visa application, then you may need to wait for an update from the embassy or consulate near you as all consular processing, visa interview, and other visa processing services outside the U.S. have been put on hold in compliance with the Department of State’s directive. Your best course of action is to contact the international student office of your prospective university to receive updates regarding your study program and enrollment procedures.
Nonimmigrant visa holders in the U.S. If you currently reside in the US and have a valid visa status such as B-2, then you may be able to request changing your status to an F-1 student visa if you meet the following criteria: lawfully admitted to the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status, have a valid non-immigration status, have no record of violating your status conditions, and no record of any crimes. If you fit this profile, talk to an immigration attorney to learn more about your legal options and the timeline for your request for a change of status.
Moreover, the U.S. Student & Exchange Visitor Program, along with the Department of State, has mandated that students with an F-1 and J-1 visa who are in the country may retain their status if they enroll in full time online learning, which is equivalent to 12 credit hours for undergraduates, and 10 hours for postgraduates.
Nonimmigrants with an expiring visa. If your visa is about to expire and you’re unable to go back to your home country due to travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic, you must contact an immigration lawyer to explore what legal actions you can take, which may include filing for a change in status or an F-1 visa extension. It is important to take immediate steps to prevent losing a valid status. The good news is that some of the field offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have resumed face-to-face operations for non-emergency public cases following certain guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
How An Immigration Law Firm in Virginia Can Help
We understand that the coronavirus brings about so many concerns for foreign national students like you who are on an F-1 visa or seeks to gain an F-1 student visa status. If you need help in requesting a visa extension or status change, Jeffrey Van Doren, PLLC an immigration and employment attorney with a track record of resolving complicated legal issues, is ready to guide you. You’re not alone in this difficult time. Call us today for a free consultation on your case.