H-1B holders seek 180-day grace period in Corona crisis

Indian tech professionals feel ignored without hotlines to answer urgent visa related immigration issues.

Amid growing lockdowns to contain the  Coronavirus pandemic in the US, the only resort for most Indian and other professionals is to stay indoors and work from home if they can.

While the period in itself is stressful enough, a large segment of the Indian population in the US with work visas, is also experiencing many challenges regarding their future stay in the country.

A number of Indians have been caught in a situation where their H-1B visa is expiring or I-94 form indicating the authorized period of stay is maxing out in the near future.

With premium processing currently halted and all air routes to India closed, some are wondering what should they do going forward.

While some fear about overstaying in the US unlawfully, others feel the need for an urgent hotline for professionals on work based visas to get through this period of anxiety and questions.

Netra Chavan, who manages one of the biggest online immigration groups said, “A number of those on visas in America, do feel that the government is focusing on US citizens, low income groups and middle-income groups – which is necessary at the moment and must be done.”

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“But there is also a feeling that documented immigrants are ignored big time,” she said. “They are left with no definite answers. There are no on-call urgent services available that can help them tackle visa related immigration issues.”

With temporary suspension of premium processing since March 20 and most air routes closed, many Indians on work-based visas are panicking about job insecurity, denials and delayed visa extensions.

“On top of it what can one do in case of an expiring visa?” Chavan asked.

Statistics show there were 22 million non-citizens in the US in 2018 accounting for 7% of the total US population.

About six of the ten non-citizens were lawfully present immigrants. This group includes legal permanent residents, that is green card holders, refugees, those on asylum and other individuals who are authorized to live in the US temporarily or permanently.

Most Indians living and working in the US are on work based visas which are extended periodically by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, if they are deemed a valuable resource for the country.

Neha Mahajan a resident of Texas said, “Our family friends, who stay in the city have been chatting with us on Skype.”

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“Currently their concern is that they submitted a response to the USCIS for a Request for Evidence or RFE before the announcement of rolling back of premium processing temporarily.

“They are trying to reach out to those who may be in a similar situation to know if USCIS is accepting recent RFE responses.”

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the visa circles especially during cancellation of new biometric appointments, completion of 240 days on H1B extensions, completion of 60 days grace period, denial notices received from USCIS, lay-offs, job terminations, delayed decision of 221G’s leading to job loss, visa stamping cancellations and much more,” Chavan  said.

“During pandemic days under humanitarian grounds for the safety of people, government must announce a safety precautionary rule for next 180 days or so.”

“This will give positive assurance to many visa holders and will bring some level of peace of mind,” she said.

“Under pandemic circumstances, can the US government please take responsibility of their stress-free stay?” Chavan said.

“After-all they are law abiding regular tax-payers of our country too helping various US states and counties to remain strong financially.”

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2 Comments

  1. H1BBuster

    Send them back home. US has 30M filed unemployment. There are plenty are available to hire than keeping those mafia run H1-Bs.

  2. This situation with the work visas and lockdown (and potential loss of employment, uncertainty, etc.) due to coronavirus is indeed causing major disruptions to many Indians (who comprise majority of US workforce on work visa like H-1B). However, consider this – 3.3 million Americans (this number is a lot higher than the number of folks on work visa) filed for unemployment claims this week. The US government, whether Democrat or Republican, will give its own citizens first preference when it comes to employment. Instead of asking for extension (as stated in the petition), you must force your congressman or senator to work on a solution to overhaul the entire immigration system and not put bandaids on top of bandaids.

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