COVID-19 Crisis Update: April 16, 2020
As the crisis tears through the world, the US and New York City, we are reminded how vibrant and exciting our world can be, and how we long to get back to it all when the time is right. To anyone reading this blog, we extend our wishes for good health and a solution to this disaster. The coronavirus has exacted a particularly difficult toll on those who are far from home. For those of you who are here in the United States, far from your families, we extend our warmest hopes for a restoration of a world in which the international community can reunite here and around the world. The United States has always thrived on the energy, brilliance and creativity of immigrants and visitors. The future will be no different. At Dyer Harris LLP, we are working to make sure that we are doing what we can to help. Zoom is our new best friend, so if you need a meeting, we are ready, willing and able. Many clients are using the time that the coronavirus has forced on us to get going on their renewals and filings, and we encourage anyone who can muster the energy to do so, to join in. Most of us are working remotely, but Kevin and April have continued to go to the office to get Petitions and other filings out to the USCIS in order to protect our clients.
Over the past weeks, staying home has become even more challenging, as worries resulting from the full stop in the cultural and business worlds have become more frightening to all. We encourage anyone reading this blog to stay connected with your friends, family, and professional colleagues as well. For those in the arts, collaborating with others in your field and other fields via any medium possible may help you to stay emotionally well and creatively vital. We encourage you to connect with any mentors and mentees you may have had over the years for ways of doing this. Because we are lawyers, we also suggest this because activities within your field may have a beneficial effect on your ability to maintain your status, whether you are in O-1, P, or OPT.
We have heard from so many friends and clients that engagements and jobs are disappearing as the crisis deepens. These changes make it hard to stay in status and build your career. Many people have asked about unemployment insurance benefits, and if an application for benefits will be considered under the Public Charge rules. The picture on this issue is complicated and keeps evolving daily, despite the fact that Unemployment Benefits are an earned benefit, based on deductions from your own paycheck. We encourage everyone to seek individualized advice on the issue. Right now, we know the US Immigration Service has said that they will not take unemployment insurance into consideration in its Public Charge review, but the State Department, which handles visa applications, has not spoken on the subject, indicating that they may choose to consider it in reviewing visa applications. We view the issue as a dangerous one, adding a new level of complication to the work of adjudicators, as it opens the door to more subjectivity in review.
Aid For Small Business Employers
For so many reasons, keeping your job or getting back to work as soon as possible is helpful. If your relationship with your employers makes it appropriate, we encourage each of you to share information on the Payroll Protection Program for Small Businesses under the CARES Act. (https://sbafaq.s3.amazonaws.com/sba-eidl.html)
While the process looks complicated, it is definitely worth trying. The following are email addresses for people at the Small Business Administration in New York, who can also help with any questions on how to apply for coverage:
Please pass this on to your colleagues and employers, so that they get the help they need to keep their businesses and organizations going.
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What else is happening:
The US Immigration Service.
The USCIS is still processing filings. However, Premium Processing of filings for Green Cards and Non-immigrant Petitions (like O-1s, H-1Bs, etc.) is not available at this time. Premium Processed cases filed before the crisis will still be handled on an expedited basis. We do not know if or when Premium Processing will be reinstated.
Deadlines for I-94, OPT, EAD and visa expiration dates are, in most cases, still operative. It is still crucial that people facing deadlines and expiration dates take action to preserve their status if they can. An appropriate action may include filing to extend your status, filing to transition to a new status, or depart. We encourage everyone who is facing a deadline to contact a professional to help address their needs sooner rather than later.
Many people have asked if the Immigration Service will automatically extend deadlines, or at least show some flexibility, in light of the crisis. There are lawsuits pending requesting action on this issue, because of the risks posed to all by requiring people (and lawyers) to attend to filings and in-person appearances. The Service has indicated that there is no need for a blanket extension on deadlines and expirations because it has the discretion to overlook small delays in filings. While we hope that that discretion will be applied to the fullest extent possible, there are no guarantees on this, and how it will play out. We believe that an across-the-board extension would have been (and still is) the right move. A blanket extension or moratorium on due dates and expirations of at least 90 days would have eased worries, and limited the extent to which people have to expose themselves to real danger to meet deadlines. If this changes, we will issue a newsletter to notify everyone and take a deep breath!
Face to face meetings are on hold, so interviews, fingerprint appointments, and things that require people to go to a USCIS location are not happening. The USCIS has indicated that these services will remain off-line until at least May 4. One bright note: The USCIS has started to issue EADs without fingerprint appointments, recognizing how important it is for people to have the ability to work and travel.
Visa Services: Another face-to-face service that is not open right now is visa services in US Consulates abroad. They are not handling visa appointments at this time. People in the middle of the visa process at Consulates are on hold, a tremendous burden for folks who have worked hard to get a new approval.
Our Mission Remains The Same: To Serve Our Clients
We hope that you, your families and networks are managing. Whether you are working under worrisome conditions, stuck at home, separated from loved ones, if you have lost out on wonderful opportunities, afraid for your own health or that of your friends and family members, and/or are just heartbroken to see our world take this hit, we are in this together. Our firm continues to work (remotely), with a renewed mission of helping our clients through this crisis.
Our warmest regards to you.
Dyer Harris LLP