Can Immigrants Receive Assistance if They Are Affected by Natural Disasters?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers assistance to foreign nationals affected by unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters, while living in the United States or abroad. The USCIS identifies unforeseen natural disasters as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, floods, or wildfires, among others.

Immigration agencies understand that natural disasters and other catastrophes may affect your ability to provide supplemental material or evidence, subsequently affecting the processing of your application. If you have been affected by a natural disaster or other catastrophe, requests for assistance are determined on a case-by-cases basis and may include:

  • Changing an individual’s immigration status or extending stay periods for nonimmigrants currently residing in the United States. If your authorized period has expired, the USCIS may consider excusing delays in applications for changes or extensions if the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control that account for the delay.
  • Re-paroling of foreign nationals previously granted parole by the USCIS.
  • Expediting the processing of advance parole requests.
  • Potential consideration of fee waiver requests for those unable to pay.
  • Expediting decisions regarding authorization of off-campus employment for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship, such as:
    • Loss of on-campus employment.
    • Loss of financial aid.
    • Substantial increases in tuition or cost of living.
    • Unexpected changes in your supporter’s financial conditions.
    • Substantial fluctuations in current exchange rates or currency values.
    • Medical bills or other unexpected substantial expenses.
  • Time flexibility for applicants receiving Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny letters who are unable to do so in a timely manner due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • Expediting petition or application decisions, including employment authorizations, when appropriate.
  • Flexibility on interview scheduling if applicant is unable to appear due to the unforeseen circumstances.
  • Increased processing times for the replacement of lost or damaged government-issued immigration or travel documents, such as green cards, employment authorization, or arrival and departure records.
  • Rescheduling flexibility for biometrics appointments.

When requesting assistance, an explanation of how the unforeseen circumstances have impacted you is required. If the circumstances caused you to lose all forms of evidence, you must include an explanation and a copy of an insurance claim and police report or other report in the description section of the application to support your request.

Additionally, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may suspend certain regulatory requirements regarding employment for F-1 students from parts of the world experiencing emergent circumstances, such as war, military conflict, natural catastrophes, and national or international financial crises. Students may qualify for off-campus employment authorization if they meet the following criteria:

  • A citizen of a country identified in the Federal Register notice.
  • Lawfully present in the United States during the time period identified in the Federal Register notice.
  • Enrolled in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school and reported on-time to the Designated School Official since the special situation.
  • Currently holding F-1 student status.
  • Experiencing severe economic hardship.

Seek guidance from an experienced attorney when filing USCIS requests for assistance if you have been displaced or affected by a natural disaster. The applications can be complex, and lost or destroyed supplemental information can be difficult to obtain without the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist Clients Displaced or Affected by Natural Disasters

A natural disaster can upend your life, and even more so if you are an immigrant residing in the United States. If you have experienced hardship due to a natural disaster or other unforeseen catastrophe, our seasoned Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. will guide you. Call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.