DHS Won’t Force Tourists From Ebola-Stricken Countries to Go Home

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Tourists from West Africa’s Ebola zone don’t have to head back home once their tourist visas are up, because the Department of Homeland Security is granting those already here temporary protected status for the duration of the epidemic.

Visitors from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the nations hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak, will now be able to apply for protection from deportation and a temporary work permit, good for up to 18 months. To be eligible, they must not have a criminal record, and those granted special status won’t be allowed to return home if they plan on coming back to the U.S. According to Reuters, this change may affect up to 8,000 people from the region.

The Ebola response in the United States has been front and center in the United States government at high levels,” a DHS official told Reuters. “This designation has been part of that constant monitoring, reevaluation and reassessment of the appropriate response.”

Citizens of the three countries affected by this change are required to have a visa for traveling to the United States. In any case, the special status would only apply to those who arrive in the U.S. no later than today, to prevent a mass rush out of West Africa.