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Immigration benefits that may be available after Hurricane Isaac

USCIS is offering help to immigrants who may have been affected by Hurricane Isaac.

In the wake of Hurricane Isaac, many immigrants' ability to send money to their families may have been affected temporarily due to an inability to gain access to the internet or because they were forced to leave their homes, thereby preventing them from the traditional means by which they wire money. Hopefully, conditions have improved so that this is no longer an issue.

However, because the storm impacted certain parts of Louisiana and Mississippi more directly than others, some people may require more time to recover than others. And because of this, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has made temporary relief measures available to those who are in need of it.

1. Extension of nonimmigrant status. Some of these benefits include immigrants' ability to change or extend their nonimmigrant status in the U.S., even if the request was filed after the authorized period of admission. Something else that may be extended are those who were granted parole by the USCIS when they initially came to the country.

2. Employment authorization. Another area foreign workers may be able to take advantage of as a result of the storm relates to employment authorization. Individuals who were looking for permission to work off-campus may be able to get an answer relatively quickly, so long as they can prove that they have encountered trying economic circumstances.

3. Residency. Something else that may be processed fairly quickly are papers from immigrants who are applying for residency on behalf of their family members. USCIS notes that expedited processing may be available for affected U.S. citizens whose immediate relatives are looking to gain residency. Employment authorization applications may be decided and sent back to applicants fast as well.

4. Assistance to those who may have been stranded. Though travel conditions have mostly returned to normal, Hurricane Isaac may have delayed or stranded lawful permanent residents who may have been visiting their families overseas when the storm hit. USCIS indicates that it and the State Department will provide assistance as needed, especially if it pertains to the loss of travel documents or green cards.

Though Hurricane Isaac may not have carried the same kind of force that Katrina did in 2005, many people were still affected by the storm. In some portions of Louisiana, for example, nearly 18 inches of rain fell, prompting rescuers to launch boats and other high-water vehicles in order to come to the aid of hundreds of people.

"I've never seen so much water in my life," Cisco Gonzales, a heating and air conditioning business owner, told The Associated Press. He added that he was able to come to the aid of at least 12 people who were stranded by the high-water levels.

Though Louisiana doesn't boast an immigrant population level that's on par with Texas or Arizona, the number of people who have relocated there overseas or from a different state has increased in recent years. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the foreign-born population of Louisiana increased significantly between 2000 and 2010. Two years ago, the immigrant population of Louisiana was just under 4 percent, up from 2.6 percent in 2000, meaning that more people from throughout the world are moving to Louisiana to take advantage of the cultural and employment opportunities.

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