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Ebola News: Tourists From West Africa Will Be Allowed to Stay in the US for Over a Year

First Posted: Nov 20, 2014 04:43 PM EST

The United States is giving visitors from Ebola-ravaged countries temporary protected status, which allows them to remain in the country for up to 18 months, New York Magazine reported.

Citizens of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone who are in the United States on a tourist visa will be able to apply for protection from deportation. If approved, the Department of Homeland Security may also grant them temporary work permits. Also eligible will be individuals who are not nationals of those three West African countries but who "last habitually resided" in one of them, the Daily Caller added.

"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 (United States)," New York Magazine said.

The policy may affect up to 8,000 people and will not apply to those who arrive after Nov. 20 "to prevent a mass rush out of West Africa," as reported by the magazine.

"The Ebola response in the United States has been front and center in the United States government at high levels," a Homeland Security official told Reuters. "This designation has been part of that constant monitoring, re-evaluation and reassessment of the appropriate response."

After the 18-month special status has expired, the Department of Homeland Security will consider extending the protection if necessary, according to Fox News. It is not the first time the United States has taken steps to protect travelers hit by natural disasters or epidemics, the news channel added.

"In 2010, the (United States) offered Haitians displaced by the earthquake places to stay. The earthquake, which measured 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale, claimed more than 230,000 lives (and) displaced 1.5 million people," Fox said. "But unlike other situations, the residents from West Africa will not be allowed to travel back to the region and then return to the (United States) -- a measure in place in order to prevent the disease from spreading."

Democrat Zoe Logfren praised the policy, the Hill noted.

"I applaud the administration for applying lawful authority to protect Americans and foreign nationals alike from a deeply troubling humanitarian crisis, the worst recorded Ebola outbreak to date," the California congresswoman said.

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