COVID-19 has caused much uncertainty for visa holders currently in the United States. To date, USCIS has failed to published any guidance in regards to those on O-1 visas who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Below, we have addressed some of the most frequent questions we have received from O-1 visa holders over the last few weeks.
1. What can I do if I am in the United States on an O-1 visa and my I-94 is expiring soon?
Your I-94, which can be checked online at CBP’s official website, determines the length of your valid status in the United States. If your I-94 is set to expire soon, it is important to begin planning how you will continue to maintain your lawful status in the United States. If you are unable to leave the United States because there are no flights available to your home country, you will need maintain your status by filing another petition with USCIS. Options include extending your O-1 visa or changing your status to another type of nonimmigrant visa. For example, many O-1 visa holders have requested to change their status to that of B1/B2 tourist status. The key to remember is that any other visa petition must be filed with USCIS before your current I-94 expires.
2. What can I do if I am in the United States on an O-1 visa and lost my job?
When analyzing the impacts of COVID-19 on your O-1 visa, the principal consideration is whether or not you are on an “open” or “closed” O-1 visa. A “closed” O-1 visa generally means that the O-1 was sponsored by a single employer, and the O-1 beneficiary is limited to working with that sole employer. On the other hand, an “open” O-1 visa, is an O-1 where the sponsor (also referred to as the petitioner) is not the employer. For example, if the O-1 sponsor is an agent that represents you for your employment with several other U.S. companies, this is generally considered an “open” O-1 visa.
If you are on a “closed” O-1 visa and you were fired by your employer, this would mean that you are no longer able to adhere to the terms of your O-1 visa. Generally, in order to maintain your O-1 status in the United States, you must continue to be employed by the company that sponsored you. Based on these facts, USCIS will most likely consider that you are violating the terms of your O-1 visa and have failed to maintain your status.
If you are on an “open” O-1 visa, evaluating your maintenance of status is a bit more complicated. We recommend speaking to an experienced immigration attorney to discuss the facts of your specific case.
At Abeckjerr Immigration Law PA we are skilled in preparing O-1 petitions for a wide variety of occupations. Our attorneys are available to discuss and provide further guidance for your O-1 petition. Please contact our office today at firstname.lastname@example.org set up an initial consultation.