In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many Indian-Americans with visiting family members and visitors can get some relief to extend all legal Non-Immigrant Visas, including tourist or business visas (B1/B2 visas), that allows a short term entry into the United States.
"United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will 'favourably' receive and accommodate extension applications to Non-Immigrant Visa holders," a senior Department of Homeland Security official told ANI.
Typically the USCIS can extend the stay of any Non-Immigrant Visa application based on genuine and urgent conditions.
"Visitors whose visa are expiring can, of course, apply to USCIS for extensions and we are taking what I would characterize as a very appropriate view of the circumstances. For instance, wherever an extension is being requested today, and you're going to a country where the flights have been taken down you can readily be expected to be favourably received by USCIS," the officer said.
Ideally, any given Non Immigrant Visa extensions should be filed 45 days in advance but in the given dire scenario US immigration authorities will now help visitors, given the coronavirus crisis has not just impacted the US but most countries across the globe.
"Say two months ago, that would not have been the case. Earlier (before the coronavirus outbreak) if flights were available, and your visa was coming to an end, you'd have been expected to get on one of those flights and return home,' the senior official explained the US legal requirements.
With numerous international flights cancelled at the last minute and ports of entry that are shut for Indian citizens returning to India or those who are unable to leave the United States even if they wish to go back home, special considerations will be in place.
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"Accounting for the challenges that travel restrictions all over the world, not just in the United States, are placing on individuals abilities to sincerely abide by the terms of their visas. So we do understand that, and USCIS I think, you'll find to be very accommodating," the official responded to ANI's question in a teleconference.
Indian Embassy here on Friday issued a travel advisory asking Indian nationals to contact US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for extension of visa in the US amid travel restrictions imposed in the backdrop of coronavirus pandemic.
The advisory came in after the Indian government announced that no international commercial passenger aircraft will be allowed into India from midnight of March 22 to March 29.