ON November 8, 2013 Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines leaving it with destruction of monumental proportions. Answering an emergent call for assistance and aid to the natural catastrophe, private individuals and the US Government responded with an outpouring of humanitarian assistance to the Philippines. In the United States, President Obama has been called upon to designate Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for the Philippines and Filipino nationals who are currently in the US.
The US is home to millions of Filipino nationals, some of whom are in status and some of whom are not. While the US Government has not granted TPS designation to the Philippines, it has made certain forms of relief temporarily available to Filipino nationals impacted by Typhoon Yolanda. Filipino nationals residing in the US should pay careful attention to the immigration relief measures that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has instituted on their behalf. The relief is not automatic. It must be affirmatively requested. And, since it is not clear for how long the relief will be available, Philippine nationals in the United States should take advantage of these benefits at the earliest opportunity.
The immigration relief measure that stands out as most significant is the ability to request a change or an extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the US who is out of status. This relief applies to those who entered the United States on visitor visas, student visas, and temporary employment visas. Upon entry, the nonimmigrants were permitted to remain in the US for a limited period of time. Once that time has elapsed, they are out of status. Persons out of status are normally ineligible to extend or change status. With few exceptions, they are also ineligible to adjust status to lawful permanent resident in the United States. They also begin to accrue unlawful presence. This can have a negative impact if they later become eligible to obtain a green card. Most frighteningly, they are subject to being removed from the United States.
Reinstatement to lawful status when one’s status has lapsed is not usually possible. The opportunity currently available to Filipino citizens to re-enter lawful status is extremely significant because the negative immigration consequences of remaining in the U.S. beyond an authorized period of stay will not apply to those who obtain this relief.
The expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of United States citizen’s (USC) and relatives of lawful permanent residents (LPR) with current priority dates is another significant immigration relief measure. An immediate relative is defined as a spouse, parent, step-parent, child and step-child under the age of 21, of a USC and the spouse of a deceased USC. It is important to note that a step-parent or child will qualify only if the marriage creating the step parent/child relationship occurred before the child’s 18th birthday. Also, a USC filing a petition on behalf of a parent must be 21 years old. By requesting expedited processing of an immigrant petition, families will be reunited faster than before. After the immigrant petition is approved, a visa is immediately available to the beneficiary. Depending on where the beneficiary is residing, he may either consular process through a US Embassy or file a green card application with the USCIS.
Other potential beneficial immigration relief measures for Filipino nationals include extensions of grants of parole and advance parole. Additionally, requests can be made for expedited processing of an advance parole application and the expedited adjudication of an employment authorization application. For F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship, an expedited adjudication for off-campus employment may be submitted. Assistance is also available for a LPR stranded outside the US without proper documentation establishing LPR status.
Filipino nationals residing in the US who were impacted by Typhoon Yolanda should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney to determine whether theavailable immigration relief measures apply in their cases.
* * *
Atty. Reeves has represented clients in numerous landmark immigration cases that have set new policies regarding INS action and immigrants’ rights. His offices are located in Pasadena, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Makati City.
Telephone: (800) 795-8009
* * *
The analysis and suggestions offered in this column do not create a lawyer-client relationship and are not a substitute for the personalized representation that is essential to every case.
Atty. Robert Reeves, Michael Bhotiwihok & Nancy E. Miller