USCIS Provides Immigration Relief Measures for Foreign Nationals Impacted by Natural Disasters or Civil Unrests
Conditions in a foreign national’s home country such as civil unrest or a severe environmental disaster may impede their ability to return home as originally planned or may create temporary financial difficulties for them and their family. These extreme situations may also may affect their ability to maintain lawful immigration status while in the United States. During these special situations, USCIS has made provisions for temporary relief measures to eligible foreign nationals. Recently, USCIS provided for immigration relief measures for Filipino Nationals Impacted by Typhoon Haiyan and for nationals from Central American countries affected by extreme flooding. Because of these temorary measures, the foreign nationals impacted by such extreme situations may be eligible to benefit from the following immigration relief measures:
- Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even when the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
- Extension of certain grants of parole made by USCIS;
- Extension of certain grants of advance parole, and expedited processing of advance parole requests;
- Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
- Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs);
- Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate; and
- Assistance to LPRs stranded overseas without immigration or travel documents, such as Permanent Resident Cards (Green Cards). USCIS and the Department of State will coordinate on these matters when the LPR is stranded in a place that has no local USCIS office.
- Fee Waiver: affected nationals may request waiver of the fees for certain forms by filing a Request for Fee Waiver, Form I-912 (or a written request).
- Employment Authorization for Students: if you are an academic student, you may need to work off-campus if a disaster has affected your ability to support yourself. The disaster may occur in the United States and prevent you from working on-campus or the disaster may occur overseas and affect your economic support. If you can demonstrate that you are from an affected country or region and you have been recommended for such employment by the Designated School Official (DSO), you may be eligible to receive employment authorization when filing the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
- Document Replacement: if you have lost your USCIS-issued documents through no fault of your own, you may show your need for replacing the documents.
Besides temporary immigration relief measures, the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated number of foreign countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States, or eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS. Currently, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somania, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria has been designated as TPS country. During the TPS designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases (prima facie eligible) are not removable from the United States, can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), may be granted travel authorization, may apply for nonimmigrant status, file for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition, apply for any other immigration benefit or protection for which they may be eligible. Once granted TPS, an individual also cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.
Give us a call if you or anyone you know may have been affected by these hardships and need legal support. Our Law Offices can offer a pro bono legal services for eligible individuals.