Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the predicament that many H-1B visa holders have fallen into: what happens when you are stuck overseas and cannot return to the United States to resume employment due to COVID 19? Stay tuned for our helpful tips on what you can do to get back to work.
The global pandemic has caused many visa holders to remain overseas without any clear guidance on how or when they may return to the United States. Travel restrictions and border closures have made it very difficult for individuals on work visas to be able to come back to the United States and resume their authorized work. For obvious reasons, staying out of the country for a prolonged period of time can have serious consequences on the foreign worker’s immigration status. We have received many questions from our viewers concerned about the restrictions and what options they may have to return to the United States.
First, it is important for foreign workers to document their inability to travel to the United States, so that they can later prove to immigration that the circumstances that prevented them from traveling to the United States were out of their control.
Second, foreign workers must stay in constant communication with their employer while overseas to make sure that their employer understands why they have not been able to return to the United States. A foreign worker that does not report to the U.S. employer can find themselves in very hot water if the employer mistakenly believes that the foreign worker abandoned their job without reason. For instance, if the employer withdraws the worker’s petition or reports that the worker is out of compliance with the terms of his employment, the foreign worker will not be able to re-enter the United States. Foreign workers should try to communicate with their employer at least on a weekly basis.
As before, foreign workers must document all of their communication with the U.S. employer to show that they informed their employer of the circumstances that prevented them from traveling and resuming their work in the United States.
Remember that as an H-1B worker, all of the time that you spent overseas can be recaptured in the future when you finish your six-year term.
Third, foreign workers should monitor their country’s travel restrictions closely and be aware of opportunities available to return to the United States. Some countries have waiting lists that prioritize flights out of the country of origin. However, these waiting lists are long and travel is prioritized for certain types of individuals. As the weeks go on however, we expect that additional flights will become available.
The key in this situation is to take reasonable measures, and document both your inability to return to the United States and your communication with your employer. The situation will eventually improve, and this pandemic will subside. We urge you to have patience, while at the same time monitoring the travel restrictions closely.
For those that are unable to visit their local Embassy for visa stamping due to the COVID 19 closures, you must monitor your Embassy’s situation and contact them as soon as they reopen to secure an appointment for visa stamping.
As a reminder, the President’s April 22nd executive order does not impact non-immigrant visa holders.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding these updates please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 619-819-9204 for a consultation.
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Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center
For further immigration information related to COVID-19 please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.
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As a reminder, we have created a new facebook group to address the impact of the executive order and other changing developments related to COVID-19. Follow us there!