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The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is providing guidance for persons, including Vincentians, who are at risk of overstaying their time in the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DHS said that, generally, non-immigrants must depart the United States before their authorised period of admission expires.

“However, we recognise that non-immigrants may unexpectedly remain in the United States beyond their authorised period of stay due to COVID-19,” a statement said.

19. Should this occur, the following options are available for non-immigrants: 

Apply for an Extension.  Most non-immigrants can mitigate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by timely filing an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing. 

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If You File in a Timely Manner.  Non-immigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while the timely-filed, non-frivolous EOS/COS application is pending.  Where applicable, employment authorization 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.

Flexibility for Late Applications. USCIS reminds petitioners and applicants that it can consider delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when deciding whether to excuse delays in filing documents based on extraordinary circumstances.  

Under current regulations and as noted on our Special Situations page, if a petitioner or applicant files an extension of stay or change of status request (on Forms I-129 or I-539) after the authorized period of admission expires, USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file on time if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, such as those that may be caused by COVID-19. The length of delay must be commensurate with the circumstances. The petitioner or applicant must submit credible evidence to support their request, which USCIS will evaluate on a case-by-case basis. These special situations have been used at various times in the past, including for natural disasters and similar crises.

Please see 8 CFR 214.1(c)(4) and 8 CFR 248.1(c) for additional information on late requests to extend or change status. In addition, please see our Form I-129 and Form I-539 pages for specific filing and eligibility requirements for extensions of stay and changes of status.

Persons who are at risk of overstaying in the US as a result of the aforementioned measures are strongly advised to take the necessary steps, as outlined above, to avoid the loss/cancellation of US visas, the DHS said.

Persons applying for the Extension of Stay and the Fee Waiver together are asked to note that these documents will not be able to be filed online. It is recommended that these documents be submitted via courier (Fed Ex, UPS etc.) or via regular mail. However, persons who opt to pay the application fee for the extension of stay may file online.

A statement said:

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes that there are immigration-related challenges as a direct result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We continue to carefully analyse these issues and to leverage our resources to effectively address these challenges within our existing authorities. DHS also continues to take action to protect the American people and our communities, and is considering a number of policies and procedures to improve the employment opportunities of U.S. workers during this pandemic.”

For more information, follow the links below:

I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status

A humanitarian fee waiver: Form I-912