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Disaster Relief and Immigration Status

Disaster Relief

This article tells you about concerns that may arise for your immigration status after a natural disaster and what steps to take next.

Here, learn about what to do if you worry your immigration status is affected by a natural disaster, and how to get help. This article covers issues such as document replacement, changing your address, and missing immigration deadlines or appointments. It also discusses the potential for foreign students to get employment authorization if their financial support has been impacted by a disaster.

Can a disaster affect my immigration status?

A natural disaster can affect your United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) application, petition, or immigration status. If you are represented by an immigration attorney, contact them first for questions related to your immigration case.

  • Extensions & Changes of Status: If you have fallen out of status due to a disaster, you can apply for an extension or change in status if you can show how falling out of status is directly connected to the disaster.

I had to move because of the disaster. Do I need to file a change of address?

Yes. If you do not update your address, you will miss important updates and notices from USCIS about your case. If you have a pending application with USCIS, first notify your immigration attorney if you are represented. You can update your address with USCIS by completing Form AR-11 and sending it by mail or online if you qualify. 

If you have an appeal pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), notify your attorney. You must complete and file Form EOIR 33/BIA in person or by mail in the immigration court where your appeal is pending. No online change of address is available for the BIA. Get Form EOIR 33/BIA from the Department of Justice's downloadable EOIR forms website.

Will accepting disaster relief affect my application for permanent resident status or get a visa?

 No. USCIS does not consider acceptance of emergency disaster relief to be public cash assistance that would affect the eligibility of you or your household members to become lawful permanent residents or to get a visa.

See Public Charge Fact Sheet.

I missed my immigration deadline/appointment due to the disaster. What now?

If you have not appeared for an interview or submitted evidence, you may show how the disrupting event affected your connection to USCIS and your ability to appear or submit documents as required. 

I am a foreign student whose financial support has been affected by disaster. Can I get help?

You can’t qualify for FEMA cash assistance, but you might qualify for a Student Employment Authorization. If a disaster has affected your ability to support yourself, you may need to work off-campus. The disaster may occur in the United States and prevent you from working on-campus or the disaster may occur overseas and affect your economic support. If you can show that you are from an affected country and you have been recommended for employment by the Designated School Official (DSO), you may be to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

See the USCIS's website for more about special situations.

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