Many of these workers are employed to hotel operators who employ skilled Caribbean hospitality workers on a seasonal basis, but whose businesses have now been closed due to lockdown measures occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given Caribbean and other non-immigrants the opportunity to extend their stay in the US amid the coronavirus (COVID-19), provided that they file their applications in a timely manner.
According to the USCIS, “generally, non-immigrants must depart the United States before their authorized period of admission expires. However, we recognize that non-immigrants may unexpectedly remain in the United States beyond their authorized period of stay due to COVID-19.”
“Where applicable, employment authorization with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after the I-94 visa expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time.”
The USCIS in its communication, said “we remind petitioners and applicants that it can consider delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when deciding whether to excuse delays in filing documents based on extraordinary circumstances.”
“While Visa Waiver Program (VWP) entrants are not eligible to extend their stay or change status, under current regulations, if an emergency, such as COVID-19, prevents the departure of a VWP entrant, “USCIS in its discretion may grant a period of satisfactory departure for up to 30 days”.
“For those VWP entrants already granted satisfactory departure and unable to depart within this 30-day period because of COVID-19 related issues, USCIS has the authority to temporarily provide an additional 30-day period of satisfactory departure,” says the US Department of Homeland Security.
Some 200 Jamaican seasonal workers in the US are fearful that they could be rendered homeless as well as illegal aliens, as their employers are no longer able to accommodate them as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Many of these employers are hotel operators who employ skilled Jamaican hospitality workers on a seasonal basis, but whose businesses have now been closed due to lockdown measures and the lack of patrons.
The workers are pleading for the Jamaican government to assist their plight as their employers said they could no longer provide them with accommodation, and once their leave, their visas will become invalid rendering them illegal aliens.
The workers said they were in possession of their return tickets but the airlines have cancelled their flights on many occasions as Jamaica’s borders have been closed by the government.
The Jamaicans say they are desperate to come home as some are running low on funds while others have run out of money and are unable to pay for accommodation.
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