USCIS has posted a Q&A on its website covering several immigration scenarios that Japanese nationals in the U.S. and abroad may be facing as a result of the earthquake and tsunami devastation and nuclear radiation evacuations. There are materials on their website in both English and Japanese.
Tourists in the U.S.
There are two kinds of tourists in the U.S. The first group involves those who entered without a visa through the visa waiver program. By using this program, tourists typically give up rights to extensions, change of status, and defense in an immigration court. However, USCIS is allowing Japanese nationals on visa waivers to apply for a 30-day period of “satisfactory departure.” This has to be done at an airport by visiting a CBP office or in person at a local USCIS office (for example, in Tukwila serving the Western Washington area). I would expect the situation for visa waiver tourists to be fluid over the next few weeks as the situation in Japan develops, given that there are radiation evacuations underway, and supplies and recovery efforts for those stranded by the disaster have been slow to reach the victims. Stay tuned for further announcements.
Japanese nationals in the U.S. on a tourist or other nonimmigrant visa may apply for an extension of stay by filing form I539 and the $290 filing fee with USCIS. Up to six additional months may be given. Even if applications are filed late, they will be accepted up to May 11, 2011. However, the applicant has to show he or she is affected by the March 11 earthquake or related events. Tourists may not work in the U.S. Extension requests made after May 11, 2011 will be reviewed case by case.
Parolees whose parole status expired on or after March 11, 2011 and up to May 11, 2011 may apply to have parole extended (or “re-parole” given) and seek work authorization. One must make an INFOPASS appointment to appear in person at a local USCIS office and must show how he or she is affected by the March 11 events. Work authorization requests are made on form I765.