Immigration relief for those affected by severe weather

By Reuben S. Seguritan
January 06, 2016
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently offered immigration relief to those affected by unforeseen circumstances such as the severe weather and flooding in Southern and Midwestern United States.

Around seven million people in 15 states were affected by the flooding brought about by continuous rains over a three-day period last December.

Recognizing that natural calamities as well as extreme situations can occur and affect an immigration status, the USCIS has announced measures that would be available upon request.

These include change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired; re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS; expedited processing of advance parole requests; expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardships; expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate.

Foreign nationals may also request consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay; assistance for those who received a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond timely to said requests and notices; replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card); and rescheduling of a biometric/ fingerprinting appointment.

For extensions and changes of status, they need to show in their request that they are unable to apply for a change of status on or before the period of admission has expired because of the disaster or extreme situation. They may do the same if they were unable to respond timely to a request for evidence. If they need USCIS to expedite their request for a service, they may also make a request when filing or after they file and explain how the severe weather or the calamity created the need to expedite the said process.

If they are also unable to pay the required fees, they may request that said fee be waived by filing a Request for Fee Waiver, Form I-912 or making a written request.

USCIS also recognizes that students may need to work off-campus if a certain calamity has affected his means to support himself. The disaster may occur either in the United States or overseas and as long as the student is able to show that this occurrence has affected his economic conditions and he has been recommended for employment by the Designated School Official (DSO), he may be eligible to receive employment authorization. All the student needs to do is file an I-765 or the Application for Employment Authorization.

If they have lost their USCIS-issued document because of the calamity and through no fault of their own, they may file Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Residence Card) or I-551 stamp (request for an interim evidence of permanent residence stamp) if they lost their green card. If they lost their Form I-94, they may file Form I-102 (Application for Replacement/ Initial Non-immigrant Arrival/Departure Record). And finally, if they lost their Employment Authorization Document, they just file another Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization).