If you are an Australian stranded in the United States and experiencing immigration related challenges as a direct result of COVID-19, it is important to be aware of how to maintain a legal status and not overstay your visa. Overstaying your visa can have severe consequences for future travel as well as living or working in the United States.
Generally, Australians and other non-immigrants must depart the United States before their visa expires. However, given the difficulties in obtaining flights, departing the United States is proving difficult: Please see our post on available Virgin and Qantas flights to Australia.
If you need to stay in the United States beyond your visa expiry date, it is important that you apply for an extension of stay (EOS) or change in your status (COS). Given the cues, most applicants will not accrue unlawful status whilst these applications are processing.
If you are extending your employment with the same employer based on the same work conditions, your visa will be extended for up to 240 days, if you file your EOS on time. It is important to make a timely filing of your EOS or COS.
If you file after your visa expiry date, Immigration may excuse the failure to file on time if there are extraordinary circumstances beyond an applicant’s control, such as those that may be caused by COVID-19. In order to evoke this exception, an applicant’s visa case file must be supported with credible evidence to support such a request.
Many Australians who have entered the United States on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and are not permitted to extend their stay or change their status. However, if a VWP entrant is prevented from departing the United States due to COVID-19 issues, US Immigration may grant a period of satisfactory departure of up to 30 days.
Please note that all extensions and status changes will be treated on a case by case basis evaluating the relevant evidence provided.
If you are requiring immigration assistance to obtain a visa to migrate to Australia or you are an Australian seeking assistance overseas, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Rebekah O’Sullivan, Senior Associate, Entertainment, Intellectual Property and Immigration Lawyer. Registered Migration Agent (Lic No. 1568412)