Natural catastrophes and other extreme situations can sometimes affect the processing of your USCIS application, petition, or immigration request. COVID-19 may fall in the Special Situations.
USCIS has discretion to take the following measures on a case-by-case basis upon request, if you have been affected by a natural catastrophe or other extreme situation:
Extensions and Changes of Status
When applying for an extension or change of status due to a special situation that prevented your planned and timely departure, USCIS may take into consideration how the special situation prevented your departure. If you do not apply for the extension or change of status before your authorized period of admission expires, USCIS may excuse the delay if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control.
For example, if you are B1/B2, but not able to leave the U.S. because of COVID-19, you may consider extension or change of status.
If you are unable to pay the fee for a USCIS service or benefit, you may request a fee waiver for certain forms by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.
Severe Economic Hardship to F-1 Students Caused by Unforeseen Circumstances
If you experience severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, you may request employment authorization to work off-campus (if you meet certain regulatory requirements). See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9). Examples of unforeseen circumstances include (but are not limited to):
Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment (through no fault of your own);
Substantial fluctuations in currency value or exchange rate;
Inordinate increases in tuition or living costs;
Unexpected changes in the financial condition of your source of support;
Medical bills; and
Other substantial and unexpected expenses.
To apply, you must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with a copy of your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and any other supporting materials to USCIS.
Your Form I-20 must include the employment page completed by your Designated School Official, certifying your eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.
If your request is approved, you may be able to work off-campus in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of your current course of study. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii).
Failure to Appear for an Interview or Biometrics Appointment, or Failure to Respond to a Request for Evidence
If you did not appear for a scheduled interview or appointment, or did not submit evidence or respond to a notice or request in a timely manner for reasons directly tied to the special situation, you may show how the disrupting event affected your ability to appear for interview or submit documents as required.
If you need USCIS to consider your request for a service or benefit more quickly, you may make that request when filing or after you file.