Immigration Options for Nepali Nationals Impacted by Earthquakes14 May 2015
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has the discretion to grant special consideration for various immigration benefits during times of natural disaster, civil unrest, or other adverse conditions in a foreign national’s home country. To that end, in the wake of a series of devastating earthquakes in Nepal, the USCIS has issued a reminder regarding immigration relief measures that may be available to Nepali nationals.
Status Changes or Extensions Possible
Nepalis may be eligible to change or extend status in order to remain lawfully within the United States. The USCIS typically will not grant such a request if the individual has failed to maintain a valid nonimmigrant status. However, in special circumstances, the agency generally has discretion to approve such applications; and is likely to exercise this discretion for Nepalis in the U.S. in light of recent events.
Expedited Immigration Services and Work Authorization
F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship due to the earthquakes may apply for expedited approval of applications for off-campus employment. This typically occurs if the source of expected funding is reduced or no longer available following a national disaster in one’s home country. The USCIS can also expedite other types of requests for work authorization, provided the individual is otherwise eligible for that benefit.
Travel Documentation Expedite Possible
The USCIS has indicated that requests for advance parole for those impacted by the earthquakes will be expedited. This will allow eligible individuals to reenter the United States following travel abroad. Similarly, replacement travel documents, including permanent resident cards (green cards), issued by the USCIS, can also be expedited.
Fee Waiver Requests Considered
Financial hardship is part of the aftermath of a natural disaster for many. The USCIS, therefore, will consider requests made by Nepalis for filing fee waivers based on an inability to pay.
Request for TPS Eligibility
The federal government is being urged by an array of organizations, including the Murthy Law Firm, to designate Nepal for temporary protected status (TPS). If this designation is made, Nepalis who are granted TPS will be permitted to remain in the U.S. for a set period of time, and become eligible for employment and travel authorization. As of this writing, however, there is no indication as to whether the TPS designation will be conferred to Nepal.
The U.S. government has a number of tools available to provide humanitarian relief to those impacted by catastrophic events. While immigration benefits cannot undo the destruction and loss of life caused by these earthquakes, they should at least provide some level of comfort to many of those are affected.
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