People all over the world are watching daily news of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa with great concern over if and how it may affect them, their families and their communities. Much of the focus has been on people leaving countries where the outbreak has hit the hardest. Little of the attention has been paid to nationals of those countries who are already outside their home countries and may not be able to return due to the outbreak.
During this time, USCIS has also been closely monitoring the outbreak, and has issued Ebola outbreak-related immigration relief measures to nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who are already in the United States.
The following immigration relief measures may be available to nationals of those three countries, if requested:
1. Change or extension of nonimmigrant status: Nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone currently in the U.S. may apply for a change of their nonimmigrant status, or an extension of their current nonimmigrant status, due to the Ebola outbreak, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired. Individuals requesting such a change or extension should provide evidence of how the request is directly connected to the outbreak.
2. Extension of certain grants of parole made by USCIS: Nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone currently in the U.S. pursuant to a grant of parole may apply to extend the validity period of their parolee status.
3. Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship: Students may need to work off-campus if the Ebola outbreak has affected their ability to support themselves and is causing severe economic hardship. A student from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone that has been recommended for such employment by the Designated School Officer (DSO) may be eligible to receive employment authorization by filing with USCIS.
4. Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives (currently in the United States) of U.S. citizens: Conditions in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone may interfere with person's ability to return to their home country as planned. Immediate relatives (spouses, parents, or children under 21) of U.S. citizens, who are nationals of one of the affected countries and are currently in the U.S., can request expedited processing of their pending immigrant petitions. Similar expedited processing may also be available for immigrant petitions for immediate relatives (currently in the U.S.) of lawful permanent residents, if their priority dates are current and they are unable to timely depart the U.S. due to the outbreak.
5. Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate: Nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who are currently in the United States and who can show that the Ebola outbreak has affected their economic support may request that USCIS expedite the processing of employment authorization applications to allow them to lawfully work in the United States to support themselves.
6. Consideration for waiver of fees associated with USCIS benefit applications: Individuals from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone who are unable to pay the fee for a USCIS service or benefit may request that the fee for certain forms be waived.
It is important to remember that in order to possibly receive any of these immigration relief measures, you must request them. Some requests require a certain form, while others may simply be made in writing to USCIS. It is also important to note that in order for any of these immigration relief measures to be granted to you, you must be able to show how your need is directly connected to the Ebola outbreak.
For more information on how to apply for USCIS Ebola outbreak-related immigration relief measures, or other assistance related to unforeseen circumstances in your home country, please feel free to contact Immigration & Nationality Law Group by phone or e-mail, or through our website.