When a tropical cyclone brings havoc to a heavily populated region of the world, or a disputed election triggers massive protests in a country, it would be normal for one to suppose that the people most directly impacted by these life-changing major events are those in the countries that suffer the resulting socio-economic upheaval. However, such cataclysmic red-letter dates in human history can also adversely affect those foreign nationals from impacted countries whose immigration status in the United States is not entirely settled. But those who fall into this category do have remedies available under the law that can help them maintain their immigration status.
Foreign nationals who are in the United States from countries that have been experiencing civil unrest or that have been hit by a natural disaster such as a typhoon or earthquake have options. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spells out specific options that may apply for these individuals, including:
- An extension or change in an individual’s nonimmigrant status in the United States;
- An expedited process for adjudicating and approving requests to authorize off-campus employment for those students with F-1 status who are experiencing severe economic hardship;
- An expedited process to petition for the immigration of immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens with current priority dates;
- An expedited process for authorization of employment when deemed appropriate.
The federal government considers the aforementioned options to be temporary relief measures for those deemed eligible. In many cases, these options can prove to be a lifeline when political chaos or a severe environmental disaster has disrupted an immigrant’s ability to return to their native country as planned, or has caused economic distress for an immigrant and his or her family residing in the United States. In such circumstances, it behooves eligible immigrants to be aware of their rights and to avail themselves of the remedies available to them under the law.
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