Businesses in New York may face new immigration challenges in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Companies have already faced a number of concerns, and the restrictions on travel imposed due to COVID-19 may intensify them. Many companies rely on the H-1B program to employ highly skilled foreign nationals, especially in technical and scientific fields. In the past several years, this program has seen a growing number of denials. The restrictions on travel may be particularly troubling if an existing H-1B employee’s visa renewal is denied.
Some employers are urging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to stop denying renewal petitions for H-1B visa holders unless the employer or the foreign national violated the law. The complex travel situation could leave skilled employees in legal limbo or at risk if their renewal is denied during COVID-19 restrictions. Others have raised concerns about how remote work and work-from-home orders, put in place for infection control, could affect the status of certain L-1 and H-1B visa holders. However, no amended petition should be needed for these workers if they continue to serve in their same role in commuting distance of their job.
Concerns have also been raised about H-1B visa workers reaching the end of their six-year maximum period during the coronavirus crisis. Typically, they would be required to leave the United States right away. However, some employers are seeking the extension of the “satisfactory departure” allowance to these workers, which would allow them to remain in the U.S. for 30 days without employment authorization. It would shield them from potential negative consequences of a visa violation and allow them to plan their travel home.
Businesses have many concerns during the COVID-19 crisis, but these may include the complexities of H-1B and other visa programs. An immigration attorney may assist companies in resolving these issues successfully.