Afraid to Return to a Country Hit by Ebola? U.S. Immigration Authorities Can Help

Extensions of stay and other benefits will be more widely available than usual.

With the Ebola virus causing what’s widely viewed as one of the worst health crises in world history, it’s entirely understandable that visitors to the U.S from any of the most affected countries would hesitate to return there at this time.

In response, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced several measures that it will take in order to facilitate longer stays of citizens and nationals of the most affected countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

If you are from one of those countries and are currently in the United States, you may request any of the following forms of relief:

  • A change or extension of your nonimmigrant (temporary) status. In a major departure from the rules, you may actually submit this request even after your allowed stay (shown on your I-94) has expired. See Nolo’s article, “Filling Out Form I-539 to Extend Nonimmigrant Visa,” for how to extend your stay.
  • An extension of parole (most likely humanitarian parole, granted to foreign residents with emergency situations requiring them to travel to the United States).
  • Expedited (quick) processing and approval of many types of applications, including employment authorization (where already allowed under the person’s visa or status, or allowed to F-1 students who are now experiencing severe economic hardship) or petitions for family-based visas or green cards.
  • A fee waiver if the USCIS processing fees are more than the applicant for immigration-related benefits can afford.

For more information, see the USCIS announcement, “Ebola Outbreak-related Immigration Relief Measures to Nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone Currently in the United States.”

And note that these measures are only available to people already in the United States.