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Seeking a change of status after a disaster

When you first began your efforts to seek temporary residency in the United States, you probably learned quickly that the progress is complex and slow with no guarantees. You may have completed what seemed like reams of paperwork, gathered documentation and checked off other requirements to gain entry into the U.S.

Your lawful presence may have allowed you to attend school in Texas, earn money or visit relatives you hadn't seen in years. As the expiration for your lawful presence was coming to an end, disaster struck in your country. Knowing how stringent the rules are for obtaining your authorization to be in the U.S., you can only imagine the penalties you may face if you overstay your visa. However, if unforeseen circumstances affect your departure, you may find relief in the government's humanitarian programs.

My visa is about to expire

As careful as immigration officials are about the procedures and restrictions for obtaining a U.S. visa, you may find you are eligible for waivers and exceptions in some situations. Each person's circumstances are different, so immigration officials consider them on a case-by-case basis. However, if a natural disaster strikes your country, or some other unpredictable event leaves you unable to depart the U.S. or complete the extension process before the deadline, Immigration may make special exceptions for you.

For example, if the recent Hurricane Florence or Typhoon Mangkhut affected your country, you may be in these circumstances. Rather than allow your visas to expire and risk the penalties of overstaying, you can seek a change of status or a visa extension along with other exemptions.

What if I can't afford the fee?

If the disaster or issue in your country also affects your financial status in the U.S., you may need other considerations. For example, your visa may permit you to work only on campus. However, if you are unable to continue with your education because of the disaster, you may be able to obtain authorization to seek employment off campus.

Other circumstances, such as a drastic increase in tuition, unexpected medical expenses or the loss of your financial support may qualify you for a waiver of the fees that accompany your request. As with most immigration matters, applying for these exceptions and waivers requires precision and attention to the details of immigration law. Seeking the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney may benefit your cause.

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