Syria has been embroiled in a bitter conflict between government forces and civilians for over a year. Protests for government reforms encountered a massive crackdown by the Syrian military, and the conflict has spread throughout the country since then. The American Red Cross reports that hundreds of thousands of people have either fled their homes or become trapped in their homes, and that about 9,000 people, including 600 children, have lost their lives.
The international community has imposed economic sanctions on the Syrian government, which has compounded the hardship faced by most Syrians. For Syrians currently in the United States, the conflict not only means that they cannot safely return home, but that they may not receive financial assistance from their families or, in the case of students, the Syrian government. Both major federal immigration agencies, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have offered temporary benefits to help people from Syria.
USCIS announced on March 29, 2012 that it will grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to eligible Syrians present in the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a country as eligible for TPS based on armed conflict, a natural disaster, an epidemic, or some other “extraordinary and temporary condition” that would prevent nationals of that country from safely returning there. People granted TPS cannot be removed based on their prior immigration status. They may also obtain work authorization while TPS is in effect. A TPS designation does not give a person any additional grounds to apply for a nonimmigrant visa or adjustment of status once TPS expires.
The designation of Syria as eligible for TPS will stay in effect until September 30, 2013, although the Secretary of Homeland Security could decide to extend it beyond that time. A Syrian national applying for TPS must show continuous presence in the United States since March 29, 2012. USCIS will accept TPS applications for a roughly six-month period extending through September 25, 2012.
ICE announced on April 3 that it will temporarily suspend employment restrictions on eligible Syrian students suffering economic hardship due to the conflict. This will enable them to obtain employment to support themselves and their dependents. Syrian students may obtain employment authorization if they were present in the United States on April 3 on an F-1 student visa, and if they are enrolled in an educational institution certified by ICE.
Some eligible students may reduce their minimum course load requirements in order to work additional hours, while still maintaining their F-1 status. Undergraduate students must only maintain six semester hours, while graduate students must maintain three. Students enrolled in elementary, middle, or high school with an F-1 visa may obtain employment, but must also maintain the usual course load. People present in the U.S. with F-2 visas for spouses or dependents of an F-1 student do not receive any additional benefits from this suspension by ICE.
The New York immigration lawyers at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to come to, or remain in, the United States. Contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117 to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.
More Blog Posts:
USCIS Announces Revisions to Form Used to Verify Employees’ Eligibility to Work, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 29, 2012
USCIS Launches Initiative to Promote Immigrant Entrepreneurship, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2012
Bill Seeks to Expand Immigration of Highly-Skilled Workers, but Causes Controversy, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 24, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Apamea 14 – Portico’ by Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons