The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety. Among other worries, many workers are concerned that they won’t be able to make ends meet and provide for their families. Many people are facing reduced hours or reduced pay or have even been laid off from their jobs.

How does this affect people with non-immigrant visas or other non-immigrant statuses who have employment authorization documents (EADs)?

If you have a work permit to lawfully work in the U.S. (an EAD), you could be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if you have lost your job. Here in California, you may qualify for benefits if your hours have been reduced and you don’t need to have lost your job entirely. You are generally eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, as long as you meet the other eligibility requirements. We won’t try to cover all of the requirements for unemployment insurance benefits, but here are the basics:

  • You are totally or partially unemployed
  • You are unemployed through no fault of your own
  • You are physically able to work
  • You are available to work
  • You are ready and willing to accept work immediately
  • You are actively looking for work

Some non-immigrants who generally qualify for unemployment insurance benefits because they possess an EAD include:

  • DACA recipients
  • Asylum applicants with EAD
  • Asylees and refugees
  • Pending applicants for adjustment of status (with EAD)
  • H-4 with an EAD
  • E-2 spouse with an EAD
  • L-2 spouse with an EAD

However, if your employment depends on an employer/petitioner for your visa status, you are tied to a specific employer to do a specific job. Therefore, there are restrictions on your work authorization and you generally do not qualify for unemployment insurance because you cannot meet the requirement of “you are ready and willing to accept work immediately.”

Examples include H-1B specialty occupation workers, L-1A intracompany managers or executives, O-1 extraordinary ability workers and P-1A athletes. If you have a restricted visa and you lose your job or your hours are cut, you are expected to either return to your home country or change status, assuming you meet the requirements for the new status.

If you have questions about a possible change in status or extension of status, call Yew Immigration Law Group at our office. We have years of experience helping people with immigration matters.

Stay home and stay safe, everyone!