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USCIS Closures, Unemployment Benefits, and an Open Letter for Immigrants

Sara Divyak
Director of Client Services

Unemployment Benefits 

By Hendrik Pretorius, Co-Founder, ImmiPartner

Many are wondering if visa holders are eligible for employment benefits in the United States, and the answer comes down to particular state by state requirements. In general, unemployment benefits are considered earned benefits which may make it possible for visa holders to receive them. There is however a challenge when it comes to satisfying certain state requirements that applicants be 'able and available for work' as non-immigrant visa status is often tied to a specific employer and a specific position. This can be a barrier to eligibility. That being said, due to COVID-19 some states including California have responded and taken some steps to ease particular eligibility requirements. It is recommended to look into your state requirements. The Department of Labor provides a website through which you can view state by state requirements.

Questions are also being asked on immigration applications now to see if an applicant is considered a 'public charge' or not.  The final rule on the Public Charge issue clarifies the following: “DHS would not consider federal and state retirement, Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security Disability, postsecondary education, or unemployment benefits as public benefits under the public charge inadmissibility determination as these are considered to be earned benefits through the person’s employment and specific tax deductions." USCIS’ Public Charge Fact Sheet provides more info on the public charge rules although, in short, unemployment benefits do not seem to automatically make someone a public charge.

USCIS Extended Closures to June 3rd

USCIS announced that they now plan to reopen their offices on or after June 4th. While offices are closed, USCIS will continue to provide limited emergency services. You can use USCIS’ Contact Center if you have questions regarding their emergency services. Once offices reopen, USCIS will send rescheduled appointment notices to all affected applicants and petitioners via mail. If you had an InfoPass or other appointments, please reschedule through USCIS’ contact center once offices re-open.

Open Letter Requesting Visa Deadline Extensions for Immigrants

Nova Credit sponsored an open letter to representatives and Bridge signed asking Congress and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to eliminate the uncertainty and burden by extending all deadlines and statuses for nonimmigrant visa holders lawfully present in the United States until 90 days after the state of emergency declared by the President has come to a close.

"We hear the pain, frustration and fear that our foreign-born employees and customers face. They’re scared about their health. They’re scared about their livelihoods. They shouldn’t be scared about whether they’re still welcome in the United States."

More than 200 business leaders have joined our call for change to #ProtectImmigrants.

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.


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