Coronavirus impact | Relief for H-1B workers as US allows non-immigrant visa extension

H-1B and other non-immigrant visa holders, whose visa has either expired or is due to expire, can now apply for an extension. This is a major relief for thousands of techies working in the US.

There are more than 500,000 H-1B visa holders in the US, with a majority of them in a queue for the Green Card for close to a decade.

The extension comes days after the Indian government and the IT industry body NASSCOM requested the Trump administration to extend the validity of the H-1B and other visas held by Indian nationals.

In a statement released on April 13, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said, at the back of coronavirus crisis, non-immigrants can mitigate immigration consequences such as deportation by applying for an extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS).

EOS and COS documents are necessary for non-immigrants to stay in the US. Extension of stay as name suggests extending your existing visa for a time period, whereas COS means changing your visa status, for instance from H-1B/H4 to B2 (visitor visa) in cases where you were unable to find employment and yet needed to stay in the country.

Apart from this, where applicable, the employment authorisation with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration (proof of legal entry to the US) when an extension of stay request is filed on time.

“The US Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing,” the statement added.

Besides the US, the UK and European Union, both with a significant Indian population, have also announced an extension of visas for foreign nationals.

Why is it important for IT industry? 

IT outsourcing sector is the biggest beneficiary of the H-1B visa by far. There are hundreds of techies who are citizens, green card holders and to-be-green cardholders. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that it was the H-1B visa that lured thousands into the profession.

The US continues to account for more than 60 percent of overall revenue for the IT firms. Every year of the 85,000 H-1B visa, more than half of them are issued to Indians, followed by the Chinese.

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