Work permit, visa extension: Relief for foreign students stranded in US

The students were also asked to vacate their dorms for the rest of the academic session. The academic session only begins in late August
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday announced that stranded international students facing economic hardships in the country can apply for off-campus work authorisation.

This is seen as a major relief to hundreds and thousands of international students, including those from India, who have been facing a tough situation for the past several weeks now.

In a statement, the federal agency said if anyone experiencing severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond control, they may request employment authorisation to work off-campus. All applications are subject to approval in a case-by-case basis, it said.

Examples of unforeseen circumstances include, but are not limited to, loss of financial aid or on-campus employment through no fault of their own; substantial fluctuations in currency value or exchange rate; and inordinate increases in tuition or living costs.

Unexpected changes in the financial condition of the source of support; and medical bills have also been listed by the USCIS as unforeseen circumstances.

A large number of international students, including those from India, have been left stranded and in many cases are facing financial distress after their education institutions were shut down after the announcement of social mitigation measures by the White House on March 13.

The students were also asked to vacate their dorms for the rest of the academic session. The academic session only begins in late August.

There are an estimated 250,000 Indian students in the US.

It said that Special Student Relief is the suspension of certain regulatory requirements by the secretary of Homeland Security for F 1 students from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances.

Examples of emergent circumstances include natural catastrophe, war and military conflicts, and national or international financial crises.

Meanwhile, the US also announced that non-immigrant visa holders, who are facing challenges due to Covid-19, might be provided special consideration or expedited processing on a case-by-case basis.

In the Indian context, non-immigrant visas prominently includes B-1 and B-2 visas for business or travel purposes, F-1 visas for students, J-1 visas for exchange visitors mainly research scholars and physicians, H-1B for IT professionals and L1 for intra company transferees in managerial or executive position.

USCIS said that has taken steps to help individuals, employers and others address some of the immigration-related challenges they face as a direct result of the coronavirus emergency.

For those in the United States in need of an extension of their nonimmigrant stay, the USCIS may extend their stay depending on the circumstances, a USCIS spokesperson told news agency PTI.

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