Immigration Consequences of Accepting Unemployment Benefits
Despite the wave of unemployment caused by the COVID-19 shutdowns, applying for or receiving unemployment benefits carries great risk for nonimmigrant visa holders whose status is tied to their employment, including H, L, E, O, I and P workers. The prevailing view is that these visa holders are in violation of their visa status if they apply for or receive unemployment benefits. Violating visa status will adversely affect the visa holder’s ability to extend their visa and/or apply for a new visa at a consulate abroad.
In addition, long-term unemployment may constitute an interruption of nonimmigrant visa status, even in the absence of unemployment benefits. As of now, it is unclear whether the US Citizenship and Immigration Services will be more forgiving of a period of unemployment due to the COVID-19 national emergency. We urge all nonimmigrants who may be affected by layoffs during this time to reach out to their KM&M attorney to discuss their personal circumstances.