Volcano in Iceland: A D”ash” of Humor Required!

The recent volcano in Iceland had those of us calling our institution’s insurance providers to find out if we had, in fact, purchased the “natural disaster” flight interruption insurance.  I thought those of you around the globe would enjoy reading about how The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) dealt with the volcano.  They posted the following “special update related to the volcano eruption in Iceland” on their web site on April 21st:

This advisory is for foreign nationals stranded in the U.S. because of the airport closures in Europe due to the Icelandic volcano eruption.  If you have exceeded or are about to exceed your authorized stay in the U.S. you may be permitted up to 30 days to depart.

Visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • If you are at an airport, contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the airport.
  • If you are not at an airport, visit the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.

Visitors traveling under a non-immigrant visa:

  • Visit the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
  • Bring your passport, itinerary for the canceled flight, and your I-94 departure record.

Special Situations

Sometimes natural catastrophes and other extreme situations can occur that are beyond your control. These events can affect your USCIS application, petition or immigration status. We cannot anticipate these events, but will do our best to help you get the benefits for which you qualify.

When requested, the following options may be available to people affected by natural catastrophes and other extreme situations:

Extensions & Changes of Status
We recognize that when affected by a disaster you may, through no fault of your own, fall out of status. When applying for an extension or change in status due to a disaster, we may consider your request if you show how it is directly connected to the disaster.

Fee Waiver
If you are unable to pay the fee for a USCIS service or benefit, you may request that your fee be waived for certain forms.

Employment Authorization
As an academic student, you may need to work off-campus if a disaster has affected your ability to support yourself. 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 demonstrate that you are from an affected country or region and you have been recommended for such employment by the Designated School Official (DSO), you may be eligible to receive employment authorization when filing the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Document Replacement
If you have lost your USCIS-issued documents through no fault of your own, you may show your need for replacing the documents.

To replace a/n…You must file a…
Green CardForm I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Residence Card, or request interim evidence of permanent residence stamp (I-551 stamp) from a USCIS Field Office
Form I-94Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record
Employment Authorization DocumentForm I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Abandonment or Failure to Respond to a Request for Evidence
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.

Expedited Processing
If you need USCIS to consider your request for a service or benefit more quickly, you may make that request when filing or after you file.

I have to admit, I did giggle out loud when I read this. Why? Here were my immediate thoughts:

1) During times of disaster, I wonder how incredibly stressful it would be for a student to think about dealing with these forms (the site doesn’t actually LINK to the forms!) and pleading a case for a fee waiver.

2)  I wonder how long it will take for students to get a reply if I-765 applications are running an average of 90 days?!

3) For those on the VWP instructed to go to the Customs and Border Protection Office at the airports, I kept imagining that the lines there would be more stressful than falling accidentally out of status!

I would be interested in hearing how your country dealt with “status” related to the volcano AND how you interpret this USCIS special announcement.

Meanwhile, for those of you administering study abroad programs, be sure to call your insurance company – that volcano may not be finished spewing ash yet!