The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has filed a complaint against USCIS in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of its members last week. AILA took such action in order to protect the status of foreign workers during these tough times as a result of the pandemic.
As there has been a lot of concern about foreign-workers losing their status for failure to extend status or respond to deadlines. Prior to filing the lawsuit, on March 23, AILA wrote a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking the immediate suspension of immigration benefit deadlines, to address the fact that foreign workers employed in the US do not lose their immigration status when seeking extensions or other immigration documents.
Sometimes the professional workers (H-1B or other visa beneficiaries) on H-1B status may receive reduced working hours (as employers struggle to make payroll) and may reach the end of their stay and must file for H-1B extensions or changes of status. Further, such beneficiaries are facing challenges working with attorneys and employers to procure documents to file for the respective petitions, hence deadlines to seek such benefits may pass.
It is noted that a certain percentage of health care workers who are fighting the pandemic are also foreign professionals on visas and will have document challenges as well.The complaint outlines the fact that immigration attorneys may also risk legal exposure where they try to protect clients’ immigration status without specific rules/guidance.
Considering the fact that state governors have implemented directives to work at home, the ability to protect professional workers’ status and file cases in conjunction has been greatly impeded.
Hence AILA demands that USCIS with its tantamount authority toll deadlines and the expiration dates for:
- Nonimmigrant workers
- Conditional lawful permanent residents
- Recipients of DACA and Temporary Protected Status
AILA seeks that the Court declares the pandemic an extraordinary circumstance beyond the control of U.S.
Employers and foreign nationals and take action to protect the status for the following:
- Immigrants who are to apply for an immigration benefit by a deadline given by USCIS, but are unable to gather the necessary evidence and complete the application by the deadline due to the pandemic. In this case, the immigrant is at risk of losing the immigration benefit/status.
- Immigrants who are applying for an extension of immigration benefit such as an extension of work authorization in the next 30-60 days, but are unable to gather the necessary evidence and complete the application by the deadline due to the pandemic.
- Immigrants, who have not able to respond to USCIS deadlines in the past 30-60 days, as a result of which they lost status, or lost work authorization.
We will learn within the next month or two, USCIS’s response to the complaint and the action USCIS may take.