FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

COVID-19 

Employee FAQs

The global novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created many questions for employers and employees on the impact of COVID-19 work-from-home conditions, travel suspensions, and other measures, on immigration. We are providing these FAQs for employees to address common concerns related to immigration under the current pandemic. 

What steps do I and my employer need to take to maintain immigration compliance while I work from home?

As noted below, it may be necessary to file an amendment or provide notice of filing within a specified time period. Please notify your employer if you will work outside of commuting distance of the work location indicated on your petition or visa application.

Does my employer need to file an amendment, being that I will be working from home? 

If you are working within commuting distance of the location indicated on your petition, an amendment will not generally be required. However, for H-1B, H-1B1, or E-3 workers, Notice of Filing (NOF) may need to be made for your home location. We will work with you and your employer to ensure the required steps are taken. 

If you are working outside of commuting distance of your home location, an amendment may need to be filed for the new location above. Please notify your employer if you intend to work outside of commuting distance of your work location prior to making this move.   

Please note that the USCIS and Department of Labor policies relating to work from home arrangements required by shelter-in-place and other restrictions imposed by state and local governments are still evolving. We will update this page as new information becomes available.

Are there any extensions or accommodations being made for the 60-day grace period afforded to H-1Bs, and other foreign workers who are terminated by their employers? 

Although there are various interest groups who have been lobbying for this accommodation to be made, at this time, the DHS has not indicated any plans to extend grace periods for nonimmigrant workers in H-1B status or other nonimmigrant work-authorized statuses. 

I am in the United States in H-1B1, E-3, or L-1 blanket status and normally extend my status by applying for visa renewal at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. How will I extend my status being that US visa processing has been suspended? How far in advance of my current expiration should action be taken?

If the suspension of visa processing continues, your employer must file an extension petition with the USCIS. At this time, the USCIS Service Centers are still fully operational to receive and adjudicate petitions and applications, including extension of stay petitions. An extension petition may be filed up to 6 months prior to your current status expiration date (as indicated on the I-94 arrival-departure record). If the extension has not been approved by the time your current status expires, your work authorization will be automatically extended for up to 240 days while waiting for a decision on the extension.

How can I apply for an emergency visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate? 

 

On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended all routine visa services at the U.S. consular posts worldwide. Some consular posts are allowing emergency visa services to individuals who have urgent reasons to travel to the United States. In general, the circumstances that may be considered for expedited emergency visa appointments include urgent medical treatment, funerals, and urgent business travel.  For “urgent business travel”, certain consular posts require a letter from the company attesting to the urgency of travel and that the company will suffer significant financial loss. Given the high volume of emergency requests and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that consulates will accept most requests based on ‘urgent business travel.” As the availability and/or process to request for an emergency or expedited visa appointment varies by post, individuals are recommended to visit the website of the consular post where they seek to request for emergency visa services and follow the post’s specific instructions. 

Does President Trump's recent Executive Order suspending immigrant visas abroad affect nonimmigrants (H-1B, E-3, H-1B1, F-1, O-1, etc.) in the United States?

No. The President's Executive Order does not apply to temporary nonimmigrant classifications, including H-1B, L-1, E-3, TN, and F-1s, who are currently in the United States seeking a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employer, nor does it impact nonimmigrant visa applicants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") is continuing to accept and adjudicate these petitions filed in the United States. Within 30 days of this Proclamation’s effective date, the President may issue another order or “measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.” 

I am going through the PERM Labor Certification, I-140 Immigrant Petition, and/or I-485 Adjustment of Status Application process in the United States. Does President Trump's Executive Order suspending immigrant visas abroad impact my case?

No. The President's Executive Order does not apply not apply to I-485 Adjustment of Status Applications, PERM Labor Certification Applications, or I-140 Immigrant Petitions.

Can I work from home in a different state or different city within the United States?

Yes. However, if you are working in a location that is not within commuting distance of the location indicated on your H-1B petition or other nonimmigrant petition, an amendment may need to be filed. For H-1Bs, this amendment must usually be filed within 60 days of the move, and in some cases, depending on the nature of your position, may need to be filed within 30 days. The rules on whether to file, and when to file an amendment in this context are complex, and will require review by immigration counsel. Please obtain approval from your employer and notify our office before working from a location in an area that is not within commuting distance of your present work location. 

Please note that the USCIS and Department of Labor policies relating to work from home arrangements that are required by shelter-in-place and other restrictions imposed by state and local governments are still evolving. We will update this page as new information becomes available.

Can I work from home remotely from Canada as a Canadian citizen? 

From the perspective of U.S. immigration, yes. If you are a Canadian citizen, there are no immigration restrictions preventing you from working for your US employer from your home in Canada. However, you should first request authorization from your employer to work from your home country, as there may be payroll, tax and other employment law concerns that may need to be addressed before you start working from home. Also, note that you may be subject to self-quarantine requirements upon your return to Canada.  

 

Can I work from home from my home country (other than Canada)?

From the perspective of US immigration, yes. There are no immigration restrictions preventing you from working for your US employer from your home in your home country. However, you should first request authorization from your employer to work from your home country, as there may be payroll, tax and other employment law concerns that may need to be addressed before you start working from home. There may also be restrictions in your home country that may prevent you from reentering the country at the present time due to the COVID-19 crisis, or subject to you to self-quarantine upon your return. You may also be restricted from returning to the US due to U.S. travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 crisis. As of today, foreign nationals (other than permanent residents or their immediate family members) who have visited the UK, Ireland, the Schengen area of Europe, and China in the last 14 days are restricted from entering and reentering the U.S. 

How can I apply for a Social Security Number ("SSN")?

In order to apply for an SSN, you will need to attend a local Social Security Administration ("SSA") office in person, which will require a special appointment given shelter-in-place requirements. Please see the SSA website:

"We may be able to offer an in-office appointment for a new card request based on available staff and office operating status. Please call your local office to see if an in-office appointment is necessary and possible. To contact your local office, please look for the general inquiry telephone number at Social Security Office Locator under "Show Additional Office Information" for the office you select."

In addition to the social security number application (SS5), you will need to bring your passport with Form I-94 arrival departure record, as well as other documentation of your lawful status and/or work authorization in the United States. For more information, they can refer to this handbook here.

Note that if you are applying for an Employment Authorization Document ("EAD"), you can request for an SSN on the Form I-765 application. Please contact our office if you have any questions.

Founded in 2005, Goeschl Law Corporation offers comprehensive immigration services to corporations and entrepreneurs.