Help for Japan and Japanese Nationals Overseas

The Japanese government, with the help of international aid, is struggling to restore a sense of normalcy after the recent earthquake and tsunami left thousands homeless, and a death toll that continues to grow. The international community is rallying to provide humanitarian assistance to disaster victims, and technical help with the ongoing work to ward off an impending nuclear catastrophe.

Japanese nationals living overseas surely have enough on their minds, watching the grim television coverage from afar, and wondering how family and friends are faring; the last thing they need to worry about right now is their immigration status. Right?

Not necessarily. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released some advisory material for Japanese expats living in the United States, noting that “a natural disaster can affect an individual’s ability to establish or maintain lawful immigration status.” (See USCIS Reminds Japanese Nationals Impacted by Recent Disaster, USCIS Press Release, 17.Mar.2011.) According to USCIS, some Japanese nationals who otherwise would need to go home, may be allowed to remain in the United States, if they qualify for temporary relief measures, such as:

•    The grant of an application for 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;
•    Re-parole of individuals granted parole by USCIS;
•    Extension of certain grants of advance parole, and expedited processing of advanced parole requests;
•    Expedited adjudication and approval, if 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 employment authorization if appropriate; and
•    Assistance to LPRs stranded overseas without immigration documents, such as green cards. USCIS and the Department of State will coordinate on these matters, should the LPR be stranded in a place that has no local USCIS office.

USCIS advises visa waiver travelers to visit a local USCIS office for help; for assistance at U.S. airports, Japanese nationals may contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office there. Further information on USCIS humanitarian assistance programs is available on their website and by phone, toll-free, at 1.800.375.5283. USCIS advisories in Japanese (PDF; 137KB) are available, as well.) USCIS has also posted on its website some basic questions and answers for Japanese expats affected by the disaster. (See USCIS Q&A, 17.Mar.2011.)

We are happy to see that USCIS is doing its part to help foreign nationals from Japan, who are in the United States. What can the rest of us do to help? The American Red Cross is a place to start, as one of the leading providers of disaster assistance, here and overseas. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund is on the ground in Japan, with hygiene and recreation kits and education materials like the “school in a box” for children displaced by the disaster. As the TV footage makes clear, the damage in Japan is extensive, and the need is overwhelming. Even a small donation can help!

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.