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FAQs – Hurricane Harvey Impacts on Immigration

1 Sep

1. Do lawful permanent residents and temporary visa holders (e.g. H-1B, L-1, F-1 etc.)  have to file a Form AR-11 with USCIS to report any change of address if they are staying at a temporary location and are prevented from returning home because of flooding/damages?

Filing an AR-11 is not required long as you maintain your present address as your permanent residence and continue to receive mail there.  However, if you will have a longer term temporary residence and will receive mail at the new address you should file the AR-11 electronically at https://www.uscis.gov/ar-11.

2. Will the storm affect any applications/petitions currently in process at USCIS?

Processing of current cases already filed and pending at local USCIS offices may be slightly delayed due to office closures for a few days.  However, most USCIS applications are filed with service center offices outside the Texas Gulf Coast area and will not be impacted.

Expedited processing may be available on a case-by-case basis upon request upon showing urgent need for the benefit due to hardship caused as a result of the storm.   Examples of situations that may warrant expedited processing include the following:

  • Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
  • Expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card);

3. What if a response to a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny is not timely submitted by the deadline due to disruptions in delivery by mail or courier service or inability to gather needed evidence or signatures as a result of the storm?

USCIS has indicated that a late filing may be accepted and approved on a case-by-case basis upon request if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the beneficiary/applicant or petitioner.  Please submit the response as soon as possible.   An explanation as to how the delay was caused by Hurricane Harvey must also be included.

4. What if we are late in filing a change of non-immigrant visa status or an extension of stay for an individual currently in status due to the storm and visa status has expired/is expiring?

You should file an application to extend or change status as soon as possible. Generally a change or extension of status must be filed with USCIS before current status expiration.  USCIS may approve a late filing after the expiration of stay if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the beneficiary/applicant or petitioner.  An explanation as to how the delay was caused by Hurricane Harvey must be included.  Please discuss with your attorney if you may still be eligible to continue working after expiration of your status where the extension with the employer was not timely received by USCIS due to extraordinary circumstances beyond control of you or your employer.

5. What if we miss or are unable to attend a scheduled USCIS interview or biometrics appointment?

Please contact USCIS to reschedule the appointment as soon as possible and include an explanation describing the specific reasons why you were unable to attend due to Hurricane Harvey.

6. We lost all immigration documents in the storm. What can we do?

You may contact your Foster attorney to obtain a copy of the lost documents if these documents were previously provided to our office; however, you should try to file applications for replacement documents as soon as possible.  Please note that USCIS offers expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration documents on a case-by-case basis.  We can assist in filing for these replacement documents if you would like our assistance.  Otherwise, you can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to find out ways to request replacements and create a Service Request for expedited processing due to Hurricane Harvey.

The following information is for replacement of specific lost, stolen or damaged documents.

7. I’m in F-1 student status and experiencing severe economic hardship because of the storm; , how do I apply for a temporary work permit?

Please contact your Designated School Official (DSO) and explain how you are impacted by the storm.  The DSO must make a recommendation for you to work off campus and annotate your Form I-20 accordingly.  You may then apply for an EAD with USCIS based on the I-20 by filing Form I-765.  Please be sure to file the EAD application timely and request expedited adjudication of the EAD application.  You are not authorized to start employment until you receive the EAD.

8. Are those in valid non-immigrant status eligible for FEMA cash assistance for flooding and storm damage?  What immigration status must individuals hold to meet the requirements?

Generally, only US citizens, non-citizen nationals, or certain qualified aliens, including lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) are eligible for FEMA disaster assistance.  However, a parent or guardian who is not eligible may apply on behalf of an eligible minor child that lives in the household and was born in the U.S.  If one household member is eligible, all household members qualify for assistance regardless of their immigration status.  FEMA will not collect or review immigration status of other members of the applicant’s household, ; however, application information will be shared with the Department of Homeland Security.  Additional information is available at https://www.fema.gov/faq-details/FEMA-Citizenship-Immigration-requirements-1370032118159.

9. Who is not eligible to receive FEMA cash assistance?

You are NOT eligible for FEMA cash assistance if you are in the US on a temporary tourist visa, student visa, work visa, or have a temporary resident card.  Lawful presence in the US and a social security number alone will NOT make you eligible for FEMA cash assistance. You must also meet all other FEMA eligibility requirements.

Cash assistance is NOT available for households where no single household member is eligible. The household can still receive non-cash assistance through state and local programs, such as emergency food and shelter, crisis counseling, disaster legal services, and other short-term emergency assistance.

10. Will accepting emergency disaster relief affect my ability to apply for permanent residency or US citizenship in the future?

No, under US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance, acceptance of emergency disaster relief is not considered public cash assistance that would cause you or household members to become ineligible for lawful permanent residence or citizenship.

11. Will immigration status be required to obtain aid at shelters? 

No, most shelters are managed by local communities, the Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies.  Mayor Sylvester Turner has assured Houstonians that their immigration status is not a barrier to any emergency shelters.  Individuals do not have to present immigration document to stay in a shelter.

12. Will immigration enforcement actions and arrests be conducted against those in shelters?

No, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have issued a combined statement confirming routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks.

As new Hurricane Harvey related immigration details emerge, Foster will provide additional information in future Immigration Updates© and via our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com.