As the pandemic threat of Ebola becomes more widespread, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is taking steps to offer relief to West African nationals from the countries at the center of the deadly virus. Specifically, USCIS is offering special permissions to nationals who are currently in the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Relief measures available to the West African country nationals on request include:
- A change or extension of nonimmigrant status for individuals currently in the United States—even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has already expired;
- An extension of certain parole grants given by USCIS;
- An expedited review and approval of off-campus employment authorization requests by F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship;
- The expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens when petitioner are currently in the United States;
- An expedited review and approval of employment authorization applications in appropriate cases;
- Waiver consideration for fees associated with USCIS benefit applications
The gravity of the Ebola situation was underscored with the arrival of Thomas Eric Duncan in the United States. Getting sick after just a few days after his arrival in the country, the Liberian man ultimately died of the disease. Duncan spent around two weeks in isolation being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas before succumbing to the illness. Duncan was the first person on U.S. soil to be diagnosed with the disease.
USCIS monitors world events and conditions in order to create and implement immigration and visa policy that is appropriate to current global and personal situations. As natural catastrophes and extreme situations can affect personal situations, USCIS “will do our best to help you get the benefits for which you qualify,” according to a discussion on special situations on the agency’s site.
USCIS encourages foreign nationals who are looking for more information to reach out to its National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.