Unemployment insurance, as described in a recent blog post by our Labor and Employment colleagues, is a “joint federal-state program, administered separately by each state following guidelines established by federal law.” While the requirements of these programs vary from state to state, eligibility criteria generally exclude nonimmigrants whose work authorization is tied to a specific position with a specific employer (e.g., TN, H-1B, and L-1 workers).
President Trump signed the eagerly awaited Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020. What does it mean for people who are affected by COVID-19 and living here on work-authorized visas? They, like their colleagues who are US citizens and permanent residents, have also been furloughed without pay, laid off, and affected by university closures. But, unlike their colleagues, nonimmigrant workers are also at risk of involuntarily violating or even losing their US immigration status during COVID-19. To understand why, see our earlier blog, COVID-19: How Do Furloughs Affect Nonimmigrant Workers? Unfortunately, the Act is silent on the fate of these workers. While it provides general relief that may also aid nonimmigrants, their eligibility for that relief is not entirely clear.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted travel across the globe. Many US travelers who entered under the Visa Waiver Program (commonly called “ESTA,” the acronym for the online pre‑authorization system) now find themselves on the horns of a dilemma: leave at the end of their 90-day authorized stay and thus endanger their own health and potentially that of others, or overstay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, US authorities are announcing a number of significant changes that impact everyone who relies on immigration programs to operate businesses or to live and work in the United States. Companies and their sponsored employees should be aware of the following changes announced within the past week:
UPDATE: Law360 posted a version of this article as Expert Analysis on March 31, 2020.
As employers throughout the United States increasingly move to remote work arrangements for employees, they are confronted with challenges in completing Form I-9. An employer must inspect an employee’s original identity and employment authorization documents in the physical presence of the employee within 3 business days after employment begins. For remote hires, and for reverification of current employees working remotely, government agencies have relaxed some I-9 requirements and companies are developing temporary procedures to ensure compliance during the COVID-19 crisis.
Employers nationwide are implementing work reductions, closures and furloughs in order to reduce costs during the COVID-19 economic slowdown in the United States. When employees are put on reduced hours or furloughed, employers face changing legal obligations in multiple areas of labor and employment law. Companies that employ nonimmigrant workers should not overlook the additional legal obligations they have toward these employees, especially those who are on visas that have prevailing wage requirements.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, multiple travel restrictions are in effect for travel in and out of the United States and its neighboring countries.
Employers, already dealing with a chaos of urgent-action items caused by COVID-19, must not overlook the stringent posting requirements under US Department of Labor (DOL) regulations for employees in H‑1B, H-1B1, and E-3 status, and for all employees, regardless of status, who are being sponsored for green cards through labor certification (“PERM”).
UPDATE – Thursday March 20 – Department of State Officially Announces the Suspension of ALL Routine Visa Appointments WORLDWIDE
Effective today, Friday March 20, the US Department of State is suspending routine visa services at all embassies and consulates worldwide. All routine (non-emergency) visa appointments will be cancelled until normal operations resume. If applicants whose appointments are cancelled have already paid the MRV application fee, that fee will remain valid for a future appointment within one year.
As reported in the Hunton Labor & Employment blog, COVID-19 has disrupted the global economy and employers may soon face the need to reduce expenses associated with exempt employees. Employers can place exempt employees on furlough, or, in some cases, reduce salaries and hours, without jeopardizing the FLSA exemption, but exceptions may need to be made for certain employees on work-authorized visas.