USCIS Helps Those Affected By Earthquakes In Ecuador, Burma And Japan
Author: New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova
Recent earthquakes and natural disasters affected thousands of nationals of Ecuador, Japan and Burma. While these regions have not been designated for Temporary Protected Status, USCIS promised to help nationals of these countries. What does that mean?
It means that first, a national or a citizen of these countries who is in the United States, still has to do his/her best to comply with the law and file all applicable forms, such as I-131 form for a parole, or I-539 form for change of status, or I-290 B form for motions to reopen/reconsider or an appeal. While some leniency in terms of meeting the deadlines can be afforded, without an initial effort, a person will have really hard time asking for forgiveness if the deadline is missed. However, if the deadline is missed and a person can demonstrate that he/she was affected by the natural disaster, USCIS will "help" by considering the reason and forgiving the failure to meet the deadline.
Second, USCIS will allow affected persons to extend their stay in the United States, or be re-paroled; or will waive an application fee; or will excuse a missed appointment, or will expedite consideration of certain applications depending on the person’s needs. An example of the expedited request may be a request to expedite an employment authorization for an F1 student, arguing extreme hardship. It may also be possible to expedite consideration of family-based petitions, so that the relatives from the affected regions would be able to travel to the US faster, or be paroled in. A humanitarian parole is a an excellent tool to bring somebody form the affected region to the United States without having to wait for the family petition to be approved or a visa be granted. An application for the humanitarian parole should be filed on form I-131. It still would take some time to receive the approval and go through all the “hoops”, but it may take only 30-45 days for a family member to arrive to the US, opposed to years.
A person affected by a natural disaster should apprise USCIS of that as soon as possible. While a natural disaster is not a ground for asylum in the United States, it may affect person’s ability to comply with a one year deadline. If, in fact, the one year deadline was missed as a result of the disaster, a person should be able to restore it.