In the wake of international students struggling economically due to unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, a United States federal agency has said on April 14 that they can now apply for off-campus work authorisation. Seen as a major relief among thousands of foreign students in the US including Indians, the announcement was made by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if the student faces “severe economic hardship” because of the pandemic. However, the official statement included that there are “certain regulatory requirements” which have to be fulfilled before the work permit is granted. All applications by the international students would be reviewed ‘case-by-case’.
The USCIS said, “If you experience severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, you may request employment authorisation to work off-campus (if you meet certain regulatory requirements).”
For the most recent policy updates, operational changes, and other COVID-19 resources & info, please visit: https://t.co/YAt68QsUCp— USCIS (@USCIS) April 13, 2020
As of April 15, while the coronavirus infections in the US have reached 614,246 with at least 26,064 fatalities, the examples that US federal agency gave for foreign students to apply for off-campus work authorisation included severe financial condition, payment of medical bills, among other exceptions. Amid the global health crisis, as the fatal COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, a large number of international students were left stranded in the US including the ones from India with universities shut down and having no place to work.
In a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, White House had ordered on March 13 for all educational institutions to be closed. Moreover, certain students were even asked to leave their allotted dorm rooms for the rest of the session. According to reports, there are expected to be at least 250,000 Indian students in America. Even though many were able to return by March 22 until India suspended its international flights, hundreds of others were still left due to a lack of resources. Some Indian-American hotel owners have stood up to provide assistance to such students and offered free accommodations, meals in some cases.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration for Wyoming on April 12 which implies that all 50 states will be under such declaration “for the first time in history”. According to White House Press Secretary, Judd Deere, a US President has never before declared a major disaster in all its states at once. Donald Trump not only tweeted about the move himself but also said that the country is "winning" against the "war with the invisible enemy". The declaration came on the same day the US surpassed the COVID-19 death toll of Italy which is also one of the hardest-hit countries of the pandemic outside China, where it originated. The nationwide number of casualties in the US hiked from 10,000 to more than 20,000 in reportedly just five days.