Most entries below contain actual legal discussions of events directly related to Filipinos in or immigrating to the United States.
Remember- These writings are provided for general information only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. Each person's needs and requirements are different and require a personal evaluation to determine the proper legal course of action.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

USCIS Continues to offer "Special Benefits" for Filipinos

Even without TPS, the US Government still provides token benefits to citizens of countries struck by natural disasters.  These special benefits have been available to Filipinos since November 15th, but unlike TPS, there are very few Filipinos in the United States who can use these tools.  Below is a list of these benefits and a very short description of how they might be used:

Late-filed applications for a change or extension of nonimmigrant status.  Applications to change or extend a nonimmigrant status must be filed before your current status expires.  However, if you file late and can show the reason for filing late is directly related to Typhoon Haiyan,  USCIS may approve the application and grant the status.

Favorable consideration for off-campus employment authorization of F-1 Students. 
F-1 students can always apply for employment authorization based on "economic hardship".  Although work authorization is not guaranteed, USCIS will look more favorably on requests from students whose source of funding was decreased by Typhoon Haiyan.  Consider carefully before making such a request, since being able to finance your education is one of the requirements to maintain your F-1 status!  Carefully review the description of your financial support indicated on your I-20 and be able to explain how Typhoon Haiyan directly effected your source of support.  Also, this does not waive the work hour limitations!  These requests for economic hardship EADs will receive expedited attention from USCIS.

Expedite for Immediate Relative Petitions.  In 2013, the time required for USCIS to make a decision on Immediate Relative petitions grew from 3-4 months to the present ridiculous 8-10 months.  They are now trying to work through a huge backlog of petitions.  Because of Typhoon Haiyan, USCIS states that they are trying to pull Immediate Relative petitions for Filipino beneficiaries out of the queue and issuing decisions.  This only applies to petitions for Immediate Relatives (parents, spouse or children of U.S. Citizens).  This does not apply to the spouses or children of Permanent Residents (FB-2A).

Extension of parole grants.   If you are currently in the United States and have been given "parole" status by USCIS, your parole can be extended by showing you the area where you are to be returning was adversely effected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Expedited advance parole document. Parole requests can be expedited if the purpose of the trip is related to Typhoon Haiyan.  You must already be in an immigration status eligible to request advance parole, the largest group being Filipinos with an application for adjustment of status on file.

Extension of advance parole.  If you have already been granted an advance parole and feel it does not give you enough time for the emergency purpose of your trip, the USCIS office at the Manila Embassy can grant parole extensions.

Expedited select employment authorization applications.  If you are in a status that allows you to request a employment authorization and you are applying for your first work card, you can request the card be expedited if you need immediate employment to assist your family in the Philippines, or to compensate for the loss of overseas support as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.  This would mostly apply to new applicants for permanent residence, spouses of J-1s, and parolees.

These are the main points and perhaps some Filipinos may benefit from these small favors.  Before applying for these benefits, it is best to consult with someone aware of the procedural requirements and who can verify your eligibility.

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