While there is still no formal policy granting automatic extensions of time to tourists who remain stranded inside the US due to Covid-19, USCIS recently clarified that it will, on a case-by-case basis, entertain extension requests even if not timely filed. As we wrote about earlier, visitors here on tourist visas whose periods of stay are due to expire-but who cannot depart due to conditions caused by Covid-19 (such as canceled flights or illness)-need to file for extensions on Form I-539 as early as possible.
If the application is timely received before the last date of the I-94, the individual will not accrue unlawful presence while waiting for the application to be decided. In general, if an application is received after the person’s period of stay has expired, it will ordinarily be denied. However, the government has announced that it will exercise some degree of flexibility when considering requests that are late due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the person’s control. In this context, covid-19 exigencies and delays that arise out of corona-virus complications, such as for example sickness that incapacitates the individual, may qualify. The government makes clear that the length of delay must be commensurate with the circumstances and the request must be supported by credible evidence. This could be, for example, a doctor’s note, hospitalization records, or proof of flight cancellations depending on the situation. In any case, this is positive news and can give some measure of relief to those are unable to leave in time but understandably concerned with falling out of status and being unable to return to the US because of the overstay. For more information about USCIS’s policy during major natural catastrophes or extreme situations, USCIS has a dedicated page entitled Special Situations. The web address is www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations.
The above is general information only and not intended to serve or substitute for legal advice. It does not create or replace an attorney-client relationship, nor should it be relied upon in lieu of a consultation.