COVID-19 Update - How Are Foreign Employees Affected?
By Ayda Akalin, Esq.
March 20th, 2020
Many of the foreign nationals who are working in the United States under temporary non-immigrant visas have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Some of them have seen their work hours reduced and their place of employment changed as they are instructed to work from home. Others have been laid off entirely. During these times, it is important for them to know their rights, and to be cognizant of the implications any changes may have on their status as a nonimmigrant in the United States.
Material Changes In Terms Of Employment
Generally speaking, foreign nationals who are working on nonimmigrant visas are expected to be working in the geographic location(s) that are specified in their original visa petition. Additionally, a specific rate of pay and job duties are also specified in said visa petition. Whether or not USCIS needs to be notified of any changes to the foreign national's terms of employment depends upon the type of visa, and whether or not those changes would be construed to be material. If your employer has changed the terms of your employment, including a reduction of your work hours or assignment to work remotely, please contact our office for further assistance.
Even during emergency events such as the current coronavirus outbreak, it is imperative that students work directly with their employers to maintain any training agreements that are in place. Any changes to workplace requirements may directly impact foreign national students engaged in either OPT or STEM OPT.
Unemployment Or Benching
Foreign nationals on nonimmigrant visas will be considered as "out of status" if they are no longer working and/or not being paid. If this is the case, they must immediately change to another status, or leave the country. However, due to the current state of the outbreak, this may not be possible. If you find yourself to be in this situation, it is imperative that you contact our office immediately.
Under the Department of Homeland Security's new Public Charge rule, any foreign nationals who are seeking either adjustment of status, extension of stay, or change of status will be required to report information related to public benefits so as to not be found inadmissible as a public charge. Because of the outbreak, many foreign nationals may be seeking public assistance--whether it be emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, or the like. although many forms of public assistance will not be considered in the public charge determination throughout the coronavirus outbreak, some may. Any foreign nationals receiving any form of public assistance should contact our office to ensure that they will not be found inadmissible based on the public charge ground of inadmissibility.
Because many countries are banned from entering the United States, unless a foreign national has an emergent need to travel, he or she should avoid traveling at all. Consulates have canceled most consular operations, including both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments alike, so even if a foreign national already had previously scheduled a consular appointment, it has most likely been canceled.
Get In Touch With Us!
As circumstances continue to change due to the Coronavirus outbreak, it is important for foreign national employees to maintain their status to ensure that there are no negative implications for their immigration prospects in the future and to be aware of their rights. If you have been affected and have found yourself in any of the above situations, please contact our office for a consultation so that we can keep you updated and informed of your rights and options during this time.