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USCIS May Offer Immigration Relief to Certain Individuals Facing Extreme Circumstances

By: Angelita Chavez | March 25, 2020

By: Angelita Chavez-Halaka, Armando Escobedo, Gladys Gervacio


United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it may offer forms of relief for certain foreign nationals who have missed immigration deadlines or are facing hardship due to extreme situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Expedited processing may be available.

Changes of Status, extensions, and Missed Appointments

USCIS may consider leniency for individuals who, due to extreme circumstances, cannot leave the US and miss their filing deadline for an extension or change of status.

If individuals miss their interview, biometrics appointment, or do not respond to a Request for Evidence (RFE) due to exceptional circumstances, they can submit evidence to USCIS supporting how the circumstances impacted their ability to meet their deadline.

Employment Authorization for F-1 Students

Certain F-1 students who experience severe economic difficulty due to unforeseen circumstances, such as those caused by the coronavirus pandemic, may apply for authorization to work off-campus. Examples of circumstances which may qualify for the exception include:

  • Losing financial aid or on-campus employment, which is not due to the fault of the F-1 student
  • Significant changes in the value of currency or exchange rate
  • Large increases in the cost of tuition or living expenses
  • Changes in the financial condition of the person supporting the F-1 student
  • Medical bills or other large unexpected expenses
  • Other unanticipated financial changes

Students may apply for off-campus employment using Form I-765. Their Designated School Official must certify in Form I-20 that the student is facing severe economic hardship due to forces outside of their control. Approved authorization requests may last for one year at a time.

F-1 Students from Countries in States of Emergency

F-1 students may be able to apply to work off-campus if they come from countries that are facing extraordinarily difficult circumstances, such as catastrophe, military conflict, or financial crisis. Students from countries that are heavily impacted by coronavirus may be eligible under these requirements.

Eligible students include those that meet all the following conditions:

  • Currently facing severe economic hardship
  • Citizens of countries that have been listed in a Federal Register notice
  • Those who have met their F-1 visa requirements during their stay, including:
    • Lawful presence for the duration of time specified in the Federal Register notice
    • On-time reporting to their Designated School Official since the extraordinary situation began
    • Enrollment in a school certified as a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) school since the circumstances began
    • Maintenance of F-1 status

These students can apply for off-campus work authorization using Form I-765, a copy of Form I-20, and additional required documentation.

Verifying Employee Eligibility to Work

Certain employers may temporarily defer physical presence requirements for Form I-9 employment eligibility verification if their employees are working remotely due to coronavirus.  Employers must still inspect virtual copies of employees’ Section 2 documents, and they should list “COVID-19” as the reason for the delay in their physical inspection.

Once normal operations resume, employers should be prepared to perform in-person inspections on those applications. Employers can defer I-9 physical presence requirements for 60 days from March 20 or within three business days after the national emergency ends, whichever comes first.

Stay Updated

For help attaining immigration relief due to extraordinary circumstances outside of your control, such as those caused by the coronavirus pandemic, please contact our experienced attorneys for a consultation at We recommend forwarding this alert to your relevant contacts.

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