The immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles have many, many Japanese clients. In response to the devastation caused by the earthquake around Sendai, Japan yesterday, the US Citizenship and Immigraiton Services (USCIS) issued an advisory to Japanese nationals and others who cannot return to their home countries due to earthquake and tsunami disruption in the Pacific region. This is of particular importance to those who are here on visitor visas (B-1 or B-2), visa waiver, or other non-immigrant visas such as H-1B, L-1A, L-1B, E-1, E-2, F-1, J-1, M-1, etc.
From time to time, the US government permits citizens from certain countries to remain in the USA — even after their visas or landing permits have expired — due to emergency circumstances in the home country. This special designation — which is called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) — is made by the US government. At the present time, Japan has not yet been designated a TPS-eligible country by the US government.
However, the USCIS advisory, issued at 5:35pm today advises that people should visit their local USCIS office if they have overstayed their I-94s or will become an overstay because they cannot now return to their homes in the Pacific. In certain cases, the USCIS may allow for an additional 30 days be granted in order to depart without facing unlawful presence or other serious immigration violation. USCIS will likely control such applications with high scrutiny and enforcement. We do not recommend that Japanese citizens go to USCIS to obtain assistance without first consulting an immigration attorney.