U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced an update to its Policy Manual, showcasing a more flexible approach towards nonimmigrants facing challenges in timely filing extension of stay or change of status requests. The announcement was made on January 24th on their website.

Extraordinary Circumstances Recognized

The update, detailed in a PDF file, outlines that USCIS, under specific conditions and at its discretion, may now excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to promptly file an extension or change of status request. This flexibility is granted when the delay is attributed to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.

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The definition of extraordinary circumstances has been expanded to encompass situations such as work disruptions involving strikes, lockouts, or other labor disputes. Additionally, delays stemming from the inability to secure a certified labor condition application or temporary labor certification due to government funding lapses supporting these certifications are also recognized.

Commitment to Worker Protection

This Policy Manual update is a direct response to a commitment outlined in the report by the H-2B Worker Protection Task Force, specifically highlighted in pages 6-7 of the report under Action 1.1. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now explicitly clarifying that individuals remaining in the U.S. post the expiration of their admission period due to a workplace labor dispute will not face negative consequences when seeking a subsequent visa or a change of immigration status.

While USCIS doesn’t handle visa issuances, it plays a crucial role in adjudicating extension of stay and change of status requests. This involves individuals admitted for a specified period, or their petitioners, seeking an extension to continue activities allowed under their current nonimmigrant classification. Moreover, certain nonimmigrants, along with their petitioners, may aspire to switch to a different nonimmigrant classification, provided they meet specific requirements.

Conditions for Approval

Typically, USCIS does not approve requests for extension of stay or change of status if an individual failed to maintain their previously accorded status or if that status expired before the application or petition filing date. However, the recent update emphasizes that under certain conditions, USCIS holds the discretion to excuse the failure to file before the authorized stay period expired.

This proactive move by USCIS aligns with the agency’s commitment to adaptability and responsiveness in the face of unforeseen challenges faced by nonimmigrants, providing a more nuanced and understanding approach to individual circumstances.

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