Immigration Program

On April 22, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation suspending for 60 days the entry of anyone seeking to enter the United States as an immigrant, who is outside the United States, and who does not have a valid immigrant visa as of April 23, 2020.

The proclamation exempts, among other categories, individuals who are permanent residents and individuals who are the spouses and children of U.S. citizens. However, individuals who are the siblings of U.S. citizens, the parents of U.S. citizens, or the spouses or children of permanent residents who do not now have approved immigrant visas are in limbo.

For some countries, people who are the siblings of U.S. citizens have waited for more than 20 years for their visa priority dates to become current and now are in an even more uncertain position.

This ban is in addition to the existing country-specific restrictions on nationals of Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Iran, N. Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.

The Legal Aid Chicago website has accurate and up to date information for people who live in Illinois about sick leave and unemployment benefits, medical care, food access, utility bills, debt collection, housing, and domestic violence assistance.

Here are some of the questions our clients have asked recently. Please note that this discussion is simply an overview and is not intended as legal advice.

I arrived in this country on the visa waiver program. How can I extend my stay if I am unable to return to my home country?

If you are admitted under the VWP/ESTA program and find yourself unable to return before the end of your current period of admission because of COVID-19, follow these steps:

  • contact the Deferred Inspections Office in Chicago via email at

  • enter SATISFACTORY DEPARTURE REQUEST in the email subject line

  • in the body of the email, request Satisfactory Departure for up to 30 days and provide the following information: name, date of birth, a copy of the biographic page of your passport, original flight information, and a new flight itinerary.

On April 17, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a press release about how travelers affected by Coronavirus may apply for an extended term of admission.

If you arrived on other type of visa, file an I-539 as soon as possible. The form and the requirements are on the USCIS website.

Am I eligible for a Recovery Rebate under the CARES Act?

The best article we have found explaining the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in the context of immigration is the Legal Sidebar issued by the Congressional Research Service on April 7, 2020: “Recovery Rebates and Unemployment Compensation under the CARES Act: Immigration-Related Eligibility Criteria.”

The bottom line is that it appears that if both spouses file a joint tax return and one spouse does not have a social security number but instead is filing using an ITIN, the spouse and children with social security numbers are barred from benefits. So, if you have not already filed your taxes, see a tax expert before you do.

The other takeaway is that broad categories of work-authorized aliens living in the United States, including DACA and TPS recipients, will be able to qualify for the recovery rebates because they have social security numbers and have enough of a presence in the U.S. to meet the resident alien test.

What about unemployment benefits?

It is less clear as to whether work-authorized aliens who are not permanent residents qualify for federally funded CARES Act unemployment benefits, which are different from regular unemployment insurance benefits. This is because the federally funded CARES Act unemployment benefits may trigger provisions in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) which limits eligibility for “federal public benefits” to certain enumerated classes of people. For an in-depth discussion of unemployment insurance benefits, download the attached Practice Pointer (AILA Doc, No. 20041533): Practice Pointer on UI

Undocumented people who intend to adjust or consular process may be concerned about whether the receipt of unemployment benefits triggers a public charge issue. Generally, unemployment benefits are considered an earned benefit and as such are not considered in the context of the public charge rules. Neither the receipt of the recovery rebate nor unemployment compensation is included in the list of benefits that count as public benefits.

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether this will change and if it does, whether the change will be prospective only. It should be noted that the Department of State has not publicly confirmed whether or not unemployment insurance benefits will be considered as part of its public charge totality of the circumstances analysis.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is seeking clarification on whether consular officers will factor in unemployment insurance compensation in public charge determinations at U.S. consulates overseas.

We will post updates on this page as they become available.