Coronavirus: US announces relaxations for H-1B visa holders, Green Card applicants
In a major relief for professionals and immigrants from countries like India, the US government has given a grace period of 60 days to H-1B visa holders and Green Card applicants, who have been served notices for submission of various documents, taking into account the novel coronavirus outbreak that has spread all across the country.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday said the 60-day grace period for responding to its requests will include requests for evidence; continuations to request evidence (N-14); notices of intent to deny; notices of intent to revoke; notices of intent to rescind and notices of intent to terminate regional investment centers; and filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
"USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action," it said in a statement.
The USCIS said it will consider a Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action.
The USCIS can issue a maximum of 65,000 H-1B work visas every year to highly skilled foreign workers. It can issue an additional 20,000 H-1B visas to those highly skilled foreign workers who have obtained masters or higher degrees from an American educational institution.
Under the existing law, the US can issue a maximum of 140,000 employment-based green cards every year with a per country cap of seven per cent.
Accordingly, in fiscal year 2019, Indian nationals received 9,008 category 1 (EB1), 2,908 category 2 (EB2), and 5,083 category 3 (EB3) green cards. EB1-3 are different categories of employment-based green cards.
"USCIS is adopting several measures to protect our workforce and community and to minimise the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time," the statement said.
The relaxations came in the view of the coronavirus pandemic, which first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last.
The US is the worst hit country with over 65,000 deaths and more than 1.1 million infections.