Typhoon Haiyan has claimed over 4,000 lives in the Philippines, according to the latest tally of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Over 4 million have been displaced and the livelihood of about 5 million workers has been severely affected.
The relief response of the international community has been overwhelming. Many countries all over the world have provided aid to those affected, including the U.S. government which is providing more than $37 million in humanitarian aid.
In response to the devastation caused by the super typhoon, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released last November 15 an announcement reminding Filipino nationals of certain immigration relief measures available to them. The USCIS recognizes that natural catastrophes and extreme situations can happen. These disasters are beyond anyone’s control and can impact the individual’s ability to establish or maintain lawful immigration status in the United States.
Eligible Filipino nationals who are currently in the U.S. on a non-immigrant status can request to change or extend their non-immigrant status. The request can be filed even if their authorized period of admission already expired. Request for extension of stay is made on Form I-539. The applicants will need to explain how Typhoon Haiyan has disrupted their ability to travel home, how much longer they anticipate to stay in the U.S. and how they will support themselves while in the U.S. They may request for expedited processing of their application. They may also apply for a filing fee waiver if they are unable to pay.
For those paroled into the U.S., they can file application for an extension of parole and expedited processing. Extension of certain grants of advance parole may also be requested. Application for advance parole is made on Form I-131.
F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship may request off-campus employment authorization. The request is made on Form I-765 and the students must show how the typhoon has affected their ability to pay their tuition and other expenses. Expedited adjudication and approval of application for work authorization is also available to them.
Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents may be requested.
The USCIS will also assist lawful permanent residents who lost their green cards and other USCIS-issued documents who are stranded overseas. For lawful permanent residents who are stranded in a place where there is no local USCIS, the USCIS and the Department of State will coordinate to provide assistance.
Those who lost their green cards may request to replace their cards on Form I-90. A request for interim evidence of permanent resident stamp (I-551 stamp) from a USCIS Field Office may also be made. Request for replacement of I-94 card is made on Form I-102.
Those who have received interview notices or request to submit evidence (RFE) in support of their application may show how the typhoon has affected their ability to appear or submit the documents required.