Temporary Relief for Immigrants Following Hurricane Sandy13 Nov 2012
Information has been posted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) WebSite for the benefit of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. This guidance addresses concerns including filing delays, interview rescheduling, and emergency need for work authorization. Following is information that may prove helpful to some of those facing immigration complications due to disruption or displacement caused by this major storm. We encourage MurthyDotCom readers to share this information with friends or family members. It is particularly important to reach out with this information to those who still do not have electricity or internet access.
Hurricane Sandy Affects East Coast and Inland
Hurricane Sandy (later downgraded to “Superstorm Sandy”) wreaked havoc along much of the East Coast of the United States October 29 and 30th. New York and New Jersey experienced the most damage and recovery efforts in that region continue. Destruction and power outages stretched south to North Carolina, north to Canada, and inland, as well. In addition to the lack of power, possessions, and shelter that exists for many, individuals and businesses are also dealing with a scarcity of basic necessities, such as food and gasoline, as they try to recover.
Whenever there are significant natural disasters, there are immigration-related disruptions and questions as to how these matters should be addressed. Hurricane Sandy caused the closure of numerous local USCIS offices and Immigration Courts. The disruption of electricity, as well as ground and air transportation, made it impossible to submit immigration filings. Families and individuals who lost homes and belongings due to flooding, wind, fire and/or falling trees, face problems due to lost documents as well as related economic hardships.
Temporary Relief: Missed and Extended Deadlines
USCIS guidance, states that foreign nationals affected by Hurricane Sandy can apply for changes of status or extensions of status, even after the expiration of their statuses. It is normally necessary to be in a valid nonimmigrant status in order to file for a change or extension of such (temporary) nonimmigrant status. It should be noted that, while not specifically stated, it is generally necessary that the delay be appropriate under the circumstances when seeking such discretionary relief. Applicants must act promptly to submit such filings, once it becomes possible to do so.
Extensions for RFEs and NOIDs due Oct 26 – Nov 26, 2012
For cases that were filed before the hurricane, the USCIS is offering assistance with respect to delays in responding to requests for evidence (RFEs) or notices of intent to deny (NOIDs). This is limited to RFEs and NOIDs with deadlines from October 26, 2012 through November 26, 2012. For these cases, the USCIS is extending such deadlines by thirty days and will not issue denials based on abandonment prior to the expiration of the extended deadline.
Interviews and Document Submission Delays
The USCIS states that leeway will be given to those who have failed to appear for an interview at a local office or to submit required evidence within set deadlines. As explained in the announcement, however, it is necessary to show the connection between the hurricane and one’s inability to meet the interview or documentary requirements. The USCIS has information posted with respect to local office closures.
Employment Authorization and Other Relief
In addition to the above, in an effort to make accommodations following the storm:
- The USCIS will entertain requests for extension of grants of parole.
- Foreign students experiencing severe economic hardship due to the storm may seek expedited off-campus employment authorization.
- The USCIS will expedite other employment authorization requests, for individuals who are eligible for this benefit.
- The USCIS and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) will coordinate efforts to provide appropriate documentation to U.S. permanent residents who are stranded abroad without proper documentation to allow for reentry to the United States.
The USCIS has been putting forth sincere efforts to accommodate the realities in the aftermath of Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy. Similar steps were put into place following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our thoughts are with those who were hardest hit by this storm. We appreciate USCIS efforts to allow for understandable delays and the need for emergency relief in some cases.
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