Immigration Benefits Available To Guatemalans After Tropical Storm Agatha


Posted on June 14th, 2010, by James Livesay in Immigration Law. Comments Off

In the wake of Tropical Storm Agatha, several forms of temporary immigration relief are available to eligible Guatemalan nationals upon request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Temporary relief measures available to eligible nationals of Guatemala include:

  • The grant of an application for change or extension of nonimmigrant status on behalf of a Guatemalan national who is currently in the United States, even in cases where the request is submitted after the individual’s authorized period of admission has expired; 
  • Re-parole of individuals granted parole by USCIS;
  • Extension of certain grants of advance parole, expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization due to severe economic hardship for F-1 students;
  • Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relative(s) of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs);
  • Expedited issuance of employment authorization where appropriate; and
  • Assistance to LPRs stranded overseas without documents in coordination with the Department of State.

USCIS has provided the following Questions and Answers, which address temporary relief measures available to nationals of Guatemala.

Question: I am a Guatemalan national and cannot return to Guatemala at this time due to Tropical Storm Agatha. My allowed time to stay in the United States is expiring or about to expire. What are my options? Can I work during my stay in the US?

Answer. If you wish to change or extend your nonimmigrant status, you may request an extension if you meet the existing criteria for your specific nonimmigrant category. If you are a B-1 or B-2 visitor, you may apply for a six-month extension on the basis that the events following Tropical Storm Agatha make you unable to return to Guatemala at this time. Although B-1 and B-2 visitors may receive an extension, they are not authorized to work in the United States. Normally, an extension application must be filed before the authorized stay expires. According to existing guidelines, USCIS may accept applications for change of status or extension of stay after the period of authorized admission has expired. The filing fee for Form I-539 is $300. No waiver of this filing fee is available.

Guatemalan nationals wishing to change or extend their nonimmigrant status must submit an application, per existing standards, and submit evidence establishing that the events of May 29, 2010 are the basis for their inability to return to Guatemala prior to the expiration of their authorized period of admission. If you were in lawful, nonimmigrant status on May 29, 2010, you will be excused for filing late up to July 29, 2010. After July 29, 2010 eligibility for delayed filing will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Question: I am a Guatemalan national granted parole to enter the United States temporarily, but I am unable to return to Guatemala due to Tropical Storm Agatha and my parole has expired or is about to expire. What are my options? Can I work during my stay in the United States?

Answer. If you are a Guatemalan national who has already been paroled into the United States by USCIS, you may apply for an extension of your parole (“re-parole”), by making an InfoPass appointment at your local USCIS field office. The length of the extension is at the Director’s discretion, but normally will not exceed six months. To qualify for re-parole, you will need to demonstrate that you were or are currently prevented from returning to Guatemala before the expiration of your current or last authorized parole. You will also need to present a genuine, expired or unexpired Form I-94, which contains an expiration date between May 29, 2010, and July 29, 2010.

Once your parole has been extended, you may apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. For instructions on how to apply, please refer to the filing instructions on the Form I-765.

Question: I am a Guatemalan national granted advance parole to travel outside of the United States and cannot return to the United States from Guatemala due to Tropical Storm Agatha, and my allowed time is expiring or about to expire. What are my options?

Answer. In recognition of the humanitarian needs of affected individuals, an automatic extension of advance parole until July 29, 2010 is granted to those aliens, who are currently in Guatemala and who are outside of the United States if their advance parole authorization, Form I-512, Authorization for Parole of Aliens into the United States, expires between May 29, 2010 and July 29, 2010. Ports of entry have been instructed to accept these auto-extended Form I-512s. Affected individuals do not need to bring any additional documentation with them to the airport.

Question: I am a Guatemalan national F-1 student currently enrolled in school in the United States. Due to Tropical Storm Agatha, I can no longer cover the cost of my education. What are my options? Can I work during my stay in the United States?

Answer. If your family in Guatemala is funding your studies, you may be eligible for work authorization based on severe economic hardship. According to the regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(II)(C) and (D), F-1 academic students may request off-campus employment authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, such as changes in the financial condition of their source of support. If your family is encountering difficulties with funding your studies in the United States due to the recent natural disaster in Guatemala, you may apply for employment authorization based on severe economic hardship. To qualify, you must establish that you:

(a) Have been an F-1 academic student for at least one full academic year;
(b) Are in good academic standing and carrying a full course load; and
(c) Need employment authorization is needed to avoid severe economic hardship.

You will need to obtain a recommendation from your Designated School Official (DSO). That recommendation must be placed on your Form I-20. Once you obtain this recommendation, you must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with your properly endorsed Form I-20, according to the filing instructions on the form. The filing fee for Form I-765 is $340 and you may apply to have that fee waived due to your inability to pay. For guidance on fee waivers, please visit www.uscis.gov/feewaiver.

Question: I am a Guatemalan national whose case is pending with USCIS. I need my case expedited due to the recent natural disaster in Guatemala. What are my options?

Answer. Given the need for immediate relief, USCIS will expedite certain applications and petitions. Standard requirements for security checks remain in place under expedited procedures.

If a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident requests expedited processing of a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, the case will be expedited where a visa number is readily available.

Guatemalan nationals with benefit applications pending in the United States may need to travel quickly for emergent reasons and will need to apply for advance authorization for parole to return to the United States. USCIS will expedite the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, in such cases and where we have been advised of the emergent need to travel.

Contact Our Immigration Law Attorneys
If you or a loved one require assistance with application for any of these temporary relief measures available to eligible Guatemalan nationals, or any other immigration law matter, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer today. Our immigration law attorneys represent clients throughout Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

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About 

Attorney James Livesay is a Partner at Livesay & Myers. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1998, he began his legal career in the Navy JAG Corps, before entering private practice as a Virginia family lawyer in 2001. Along with partner Kevin Myers, Mr. Livesay founded Livesay & Myers in 2003. Today he advises the attorneys in each of the firm’s three offices.



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