On September 14, 2017, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) published a document titled “CBP Practice Alert: Water Damaged Visas and Passports” (see AILA Doc. No. 17091431). The guidance concerns foreign nationals with damaged documents as a result of events such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, AILA reports that many foreign nationals have had their passports and visas damaged by water. AILA advises that foreign nationals with water-damaged passports or visas replace them prior to traveling abroad or “ensuring that they allow time to apply for a new visa or passport abroad before attempting to return to the United States.” AILA explains that water-damaged passports or visas may not be machine-readable, and if a passport or visa is not machine readable, the foreign national will not be permitted to board an airplane to travel to the United States. However, an individual seeking reentry by land with a water-damaged passport or visa may apply for a discretionary document waiver under section 212(d)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
A foreign national with a water-damaged passport or visa may consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance. This is especially advisable in cases where the individual may apply for a section 212(d)(4) waiver. To learn about special emergency services offered to those who are directly affected by natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, please see our full blog post on the subject [see blog].