Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information on the Immigration Issues resulting from the Corona Virus

What would be the effect of the situation created by Covid-19 on my Visa? 

We hope you are safe and well during this unprecedented crisis. The effects of Covid-19 have radically altered our lives. Daily life, including travel, engagement, and employment have all been affected. As a law firm that handles a considerable number of immigration matters, during the last few days we have been contacted with questions from both current and prospective clients regarding the impact of the Covid-19 on visas, pending applications, future immigration plans, etc.  At Mercado & Rengel LLP, we remain committed to provide current information to our clients and prospective clients on issues affecting the immigration and visa process in the US.

What follows is a summary of the most frequent questions with responses.

My I-94 is about to expire, what can I do?

Form I-94 determines the date you are in legal immigration status in the US. You can download your I-94 here: i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/If your I-94 is about to expire, you must either leave the U.S. and reenter, or extend the I-94 while in the U.S.  If leaving the US is not an option because of the closing of the borders, you could file a petition in the U.S. to extend your status.  Provided the petition is filed before your I-94 expires, you can stay in the U.S. during that time. In some cases, you can also continue to work for a period of up to 240 days while the petition is being adjudicated. You may apply for an extension to your I-94 up to six months before it expires.

My I-94 has expired what can I do?

Under current regulations, if a petitioner or applicant files an extension of stay or change of status request 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. https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/covid-19-delays-extensionchange-status-filings

Can I file an immigrant or non-immigrant petition with USCIS?

Yes.  Although service centers are currently closed, USCIS is still accepting all petitions including marriage petitions, H-1B, E-2, L-1, O-1, citizenship, etc.

What is the status of premium processing (adjudication in 15 days)? Is it still available?

No, unfortunately, the government has temporarily suspended premium processing for all petitions.

Original Signatures in immigration petitions?

For the time being, original signatures are not needed on petitions.  This has been done to facilitate completion and mailing of immigration petitions.

I have an interview scheduled with USCIS, should I go?

Unfortunately, USCIS is not conducting in person appointments/interviews or oath ceremonies and has closed field offices until further notice. If you have an upcoming immigration interview with USCIS you should have been notified by mail of its cancellation. If your appointment is long dated, you should continue to check for updates.

I have a visa appointment at a Consulate, what should I do? 

Consulates across the globe have closed and have suspended routine visa services, including his processing visas such as E-2, B-1, B-2, O-1, etc. Therefore, all Embassy visa appointments have been cancelled. However, it is still possible to apply for these visas and submit the paperwork. In some Embassies, it is possible to schedule interviews starting in June 2020.

Are Immigration courts open?

Some immigration courts remain open for now, but many have closed. Some immigration courts are holding hearings telephonically or via teleconferencing.

My authorization to remain in the United States pursuant to ESTA is about to expire and I cannot leave the US, what should I do?

Generally, when someone enters on the visa waiver program (ESTA), they cannot extend the period of time in the U.S.  However, USCIS is allowing extensions to be filed and are being granted.

I was the beneficiary of a visa through employment and I have lost my job. Do I need to leave the US immediately?

During this economic crisis, many have lost their jobs and are wondering what are their options.  Most employment visas allow for a grace period if employment stops with a valid I-94.  Another option might to change status.  The answer to this question depends on the type of visa you have. We recommend you consult with an attorney who will be able to provide accurate information based on the specific circumstances of your case.

For official information regarding USCIS response to COVID-19 see here:

https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19