Oct 12 2005
USCIS Suggests Leniency In Relation to Individuals Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
The USCIS has issued a series of remedial measures to respond to the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The proposed measures will cover individuals and entities who can establish that they lived, worked or ran their professional business/entity in an affected area of Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama at the time of Hurricane Katrina or an affected area of Texas or Louisiana at the time of Hurricane Rita. Individuals do not need to currently reside in those areas. Because it may be hard to procure necessary immigration-related documentation, USCIS will perform systems or other checks to verify that individuals lived/worked in the affected areas.
In the USCIS guidance notice, it is suggested that adjudicators exercise their discretion to forgive lapses in status in connection with an extension of status or change of status application for individuals affected by the Hurricanes. Further, adjudicators are guided to be liberal in allowing aliens who are no longer in status due to the Hurricanes to extend of change their status, regardless of when such applications may have been filed (as long as the application was filed no later than one year after the dates of the Hurricanes). Adjudicators will forgive untimely filings whenever they are directly related to the Hurricanes.
Adjudicators are also given guidance to be lenient when applicable to the following situations or conditions that may have been caused by the Hurricanes: certain applications and petitions denied for abandonment; and failures to timely respond to requests for evidence. In addition, leniency will be given as aliens work to replace lost documentation. Finally, adjudicators are guided to be sensitive and responsive to requests for fee waivers from those affected by the two Hurricanes.