USCIS Offers Alternative Remedies to Haitian Nationals

Monday, 25 January 2010

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas published a memo on January 15th, 2010 outlining remedies, other than Temporary Protected Status, that are available to nationals and habitual residents of Haiti affected by the January 12th earthquake there.

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In the memo addressed to Field Leadership, USCIS Director Mayorkas outlined the measures saying:

"As discussed in more detail below, USCIS will implement procedures to adjudicate favorably, where possible, applications for change or extension of nonimmigrant status following the expiration of an applicant's period of admission; grant an additional period of parole or advance parole in appropriate cases; and authorize "F" nonimmigrant students' requests for off-campus employment work authorization. USCIS will also expedite the processing of advance parole applications and relative petitions for minor children from affected areas."

Based on this new memo, Haitian nationals currently in the United States in valid nonimmigrant visa status may file a Form I-539 application, to extend their current nonimmigrant visa status or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant visa status. Director Mayorkas encourages field office Directors to exercise their discretion in favor of these applicants absent compelling adverse factors. For instance, Haitian nationals who are currently maintaining B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant status, who are unable to return home, are eligible to file for a 6 month extension of their status. Further, applicants who were unable to extend their status prior to the expiration date their status, as required, will receive a reprieve until March 12, 2010. However, applicants filing after the expiration date of their current status, seeking protection under this reprieve, will need to demonstrate that they were unable to return to Haiti prior to the expiration of their status due to the earthquake that occurred there on January 12th.

USCIS is also granting an automatic extension until March 12, 2010 of advance parole (i.e. travel document), to all foreign nationals who are currently in Haiti and are outside of the United States if their advance parole document expires between January 12, 2010 and March 12, 2010. Parolees (i.e. holder of advance parole documents) may apply for an extension beyond March 12, 2010. Further, persons in the United States on parole may now apply for an Employment Authorization Document (i.e. work permit). Moreover, the USCIS will expedite the processing of any advance parole application, where the applicant needs to travel to Haiti for emergent reasons.

Haitian students who are studying in the U.S. on F-1 student visas are also provided a remedy under this memo. F-1 students who may not be able to continue to cover to cost of attending school on a full-time basis may be granted employment authorization provided that permission was granted to accept off-campus employment by the Designated School Official.

Moreover the USCIS will promptly adjudicate EAD applications for foreign nationals that were granted an Order of Supervision pursuant to a stay of removal proceedings by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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