COVID-19 Immigration Q&A for Employers


What impact does “work-from-home” and “social distancing” have on my foreign labor force?

Many non-immigrant visas (H-1B, L-1, TN, O, P, R, etc.) are tied to particular work-sites and activities performed at specific locations. Employers that are asking their employees to work from home may need to file new Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) or file amended petitions with USCIS to ensure their foreign workers do not violate their non-immigrant status. To the extent foreign workers are working reduced hours, modifications to LCAs and amended visa petitions may be required.

What if I have to lay-off or terminate employment of a foreign worker due to COVID-19?

Employers that terminate foreign workers have additional requirements which are dependent on the underlying visa classification. If you are considering termination of a foreign employee due to COVID-19, you should first consult with an experienced business immigration attorney to discuss implications and solutions.

How do the travel restrictions impact my foreign workers?

To the extent a worker is currently outside the U.S. or needs/wants to travel outside the U.S., they may meet delays or bars in obtaining visas or travel documents. On March 18, 2020, the Department of State announced it is suspending all routine visa services for an unknown duration of time, meaning that interviews for visas or “visa-stamping” will not occur until reinstated by the Department of State.

However, travel between Canada and Mexico has been restricted to exclude tourism or recreation, but workers needing to engage in “essential” or work-related travel may continue to do so. Workers should be aware that any international travel may subject them to state, local, or employer-based self-quarantine restrictions upon arrival and return from Canada or Mexico.

Are USCIS offices still operating?

USCIS offices are still functioning for purposes of accepting and adjudicating non-immigrant and immigrant petitions. However, USCIS offices are closed to the public and appointments for biometrics, interviews, naturalization, and other activities that would involve contact with the public have been canceled. If your employee or potential employee had one of these appointments cancelled, they will receive a notice for rescheduling of the appointment. To the extent this cancellation causes concern surrounding lawful status, please contact experienced business immigration counsel as soon as possible.

Is BrownWinick still preparing and submitting visa petitions?

Yes! USCIS offices remain open and provided your employee or potential employee does not face travel restrictions, we would be happy to assist in preparing a visa petition or an extension petition. To help aid social-distancing, USCIS has announced it will accept electronically reproduced signatures on petitions and applications filed on or after March 21, 2020. This action waives the previous requirement for wet-ink signatures, though USCIS may request wet-ink signatures at a later date.