On August 31, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a reminder of special immigration services that may be available for those affected by Hurricane Harvey [PDF version]. The USCIS may offer the following measures on a case-by-case basis upon request from the applicant (paraphrased):
- Change of nonimmigrant status or extension of nonimmigrant stay for an individual who is currently in the United States. The failure to apply for a change of status or an extension of stay before the expiration of an authorized period of admission may be excused if the USCIS determines that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant's control.
- Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by the USCIS.
- Expedited processing of advanced parole requests.
- Expedited adjudication of requests for authorization to engage in off-campus employment for F1 students experiencing “severe economic hardship.”
- Expedited adjudication of applications for employment authorization, where appropriate.
- Consideration of fee waivers for inability to pay [see article on fee waivers].
- Assistance for individuals who received either a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny, but who were unable to submit evidence respond in a timely manner.
- Assistance for individuals unable to appear for a scheduled interview with USCIS.
- Expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS.
- Rescheduling of a biometrics appointment.
When an applicant is making a request for relief based on Hurricane Harvey, he or she should explain “how the impact of Hurricane Harvey created a need for the requested relief.” It is important to note that the relief is based on an actual need. Accordingly, it would not be granted as a matter of course for an individual who could not establish a need for the requested relief regardless of where he or she was situated during the hurricane.
Individuals may learn more or find out if a specific office is open by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 (TDD for deaf and hard of hearing at 800-767-1833).
If an individual's InfoPass appointment was affected by Hurricane Harvey, he or she may reschedule the appointment online or by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center (numbers same as above).
Employers should remember that all Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, requirements are in effect. Employers may visit I-9 central for information on how to proceed if an employee's documents are lost, stolen, or damaged.
Individuals who are affected by Hurricane Harvey and have questions about specific immigration issues may also opt to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance and for assistance in requesting one of the forms of relief discussed in this post.
It is worth noting that these provisions are not specific to Hurricane Harvey, but apply generally in situations where there are natural disasters. For example, please see our similar post from last year on severe flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana [see article].