COVID-19 has impacted us all, and while USCIS has not released official guidance on how immigration will be affected, we wanted to share what we do know so you and your team are prepared:
As of today, the H-1B lottery will still continue as planned, and registration will close on March 20th at 12pm eastern. If you have not confirmed registration for your employees, please contact your Client Services team for assistance.
Until further notice, it is recommended that international travel be postponed indefinitely. We have also begun to see visa appointment cancellations as U.S. Embassies and Consulates are temporarily closing. For the most up to date information, please refer to the particular US consular post’s website, as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
USCIS Interviews and Appointments
According to USCIS: If you become ill for any reason, regardless of whether you were exposed to COVID-19, USCIS requests that you do not attend appointments. Please follow the instructions on your appointment notice to reschedule your appointment or interview if you:
- Were in any country designated as a "level 3" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within 14 days of your appointment;
- Believe that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 (even if you were not recently in any level 3 country); or
- Are experiencing flu-like symptoms (such as a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat or fever). Visit CoronaVirus.gov for a complete list of CDC travel health notices.
USCIS will help you reschedule your appointment without penalty when you are healthy.
Consular Applications and Extensions
For employees whose current nonimmigrant status is expiring within 6 months, and who are currently in the U.S. but would typically travel abroad to renew their status, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney to discuss options for filing an extension directly with USCIS.
For Employees Currently Abroad - Restricted Entry into the U.S.
Effective at 11:59pm eastern on March 13, 2020, the entry into the United States for immigrants or nonimmigrants who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the United States is suspended. This travel ban does not apply to U.S. Citizens or their family members.
Currently effective, passengers who've been in China and Iran in the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter the U.S. U.S. citizens who have been in China in the past 14 days can enter the US, but will be directed to one of 11 airports where they'll undergo health screening.
If these travel bans may apply to any of your employees, please contact your attorney immediately.
Working From Home
For employees on location dependent visas (e.g. H-1B, H-1B1 or E-3), please note that LCAs or amendments may need to be filed when engaging in remote work. If an employee will be working from home for more than 30 days (permissible short-term placement timeframe), especially when outside of normal commuting distance, please contact your immigration team for further guidance.
Completing I-9s When the Employer’s Representative Works From Home
To date, there have been no official updates by USCIS to the requirements for I-9s for new hires or reverifications because of COVID-19. For new employees, the I-9 must be completed by the employer within 3 business days of the date of hire (the hire date means the first day of work for pay). DHS is clear on the regulations requiring review of original documents, and I-9 guidance specifically prohibits reviewing or examining documents "via webcam” or copies of documents. However, you may designate an authorized representative to act on the employer’s behalf to complete Section 2 of the Form I-9. If you have any questions about these requirements, please contact your Client Services team for more information.
If the remote worksite that employees are working in is in a state that mandates E-Verify, employers may be required to enroll the work site in E-Verify to comply. Please contact your Client Services team if assistance is needed.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation, and provide updates when additional guidance is released.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.