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What to do if Ian interrupted an immigration case

Victoria Pickering

If you’ve lost personal items in a flood or hurricane, you know it’s painful. But for those who are trying to change their immigration status, personal items have much more than sentimental value.

John Gihon is an immigration attorney based in Orlando. He says that many government documents can be replaced, it’s just a matter of finding the right agency or person to help you. Above all, you need to be able to prove who you are and where you came from in order to pursue an immigration case.

“That’s going to be your number one thing to try to go and replace is some sort of government-issued photo ID,” Gihon said. “On top of that, another really important document is going to be your birth certificate.”

You may need to contact the consulate of your home country, which may be in Miami, Tampa, or Orlando. For a birth certificate, you may need to contact your home country.

Every case is different, he stresses. But evidence for a marriage-based green card case may be available online, say from a bank branch or insurance company.

“If you’re dealing with let’s say an asylum case, where you were targeted for persecution or harm in your home country, it may be much more difficult to get copies of those documents you may have brought from your home country,” said Gihon. “But you know, the US government is understanding. They expect you to obtain documents and have documents to support your case, but if you’re able to explain to them why you don’t have them and can’t get them, you can maybe meet some sort of exception for providing those documents.”

Gihon adds that there has been a blanket extension of immigration court deadlines for people in the areas affected by Hurricane Ian.

“The courts have automatically said, if you have a court date and you don’t make it, and you didn’t know about it or you didn’t receive notice, or you forgot about it, they are going to be very very understanding about trying not to order you to be deported,” he said. “Trying not to deny your application.”

He adds that many immigration court cases are all electronic now, so again, you may be able to retrieve documents online.

To reconstruct your case, do work with a licensed immigration attorney, Gihon says, not a non-attorney who tells you they can help.

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