Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
The United States Recognizes Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Foreign Individuals Who Live in Certain Countries
It is an unfortunate fact that, for one reason or another, events may transpire that make it unsafe or imprudent for a foreign individual visiting the United States, legally or illegally, to return to their native country or country of citizenship.
Occasionally, the United States government formally recognizes these types of unstable conditions in other countries, and will offer Temporary Protection Status (TPS) to citizens or residents of these countries who are in the United States, so that they do not have to return to these countries when their current U.S. visas expire.
A country may be designated for TPS by the United States Secretary of Homeland Security for a number of reasons:
- If there is political unrest or armed conflict in that country that presents a danger to individuals traveling there;
- If a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane, has caused severe damage to a large portion of a country or to major cities making it impractical or unsafe for foreign visitors to the United States to return to their home countries for a period of time; or
- Other extraordinary and temporary conditions exist in an individual’s home country that make it impractical or unsafe to return.
In these cases, the Secretary of Homeland Security will designate residents and citizens of those countries as eligible for TPS. Currently, the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated six countries for which foreign visitors may be eligible for TPS:
- El Salvador
Understanding the Rights and Obligations that Relate to TPS
During the period designated by the Secretary, eligible individuals who apply for and obtain TPS are entitled to certain rights, including:
- They may not be deported;
- They may not be detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
- They are able to receive an employment authorization document (EAD), that will allow them to obtain employment in the United States in order to support themselves;
- They may apply for travel authorization.
It should be noted, however, that TPS is precisely what it states: temporary. Individuals seeking and obtaining TPS need to be aware that the privileges they obtain under TPS are only available for a limited period of time, and only if they meet certain specific requirements.
Furthermore, TPS is by no means automatically granted. In fact, eligible individuals must file an application for TPS with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is an agency within the DHS. In addition, the individual must meet certain minimum requirements. Among the qualifications to be eligible for TPS, an individual must:
- Have been continuously physically present in the United States since the most recent designation date of their home country;
- Have been a continuous resident in the United States since the date specified for their country;
- Have not been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors in the United States;
- Not be a persecutor, or otherwise subject to one of the bars to asylum; and
- Are not subject to one of the criminal or security related grounds of inadmissibility for which a waiver is not available.
In addition, there are many documentation requirements for obtaining TPS, as well as many deadlines which must be met, including deadlines for re–registering, if necessary, for both TPS and obtaining an EAD. What is more, these requirements vary depending upon the country from which in individual is seeking TPS. In particular, as noted by the requirements above, the United States designates the dates in which TPS status is conferred, and when it expires, specifically for each country.
Adjusting Immigration Status Subsequent to Obtaining TPS Registration
As stated above, registering under TPS is temporary, and does not lead to legal permanent resident status (LPR, also referred to as the holder of a “green card”). Instead, when TPS status expires, the individual is supposed to return to his home country. However, a TPS beneficiary may immigrate to the United States permanently under another provision of U.S. immigration law if he or she qualifies.
For example, if a foreign individual with TPS marries a U.S. citizen, that U.S. citizen may act as the sponsor for the individual to apply for and obtain LPR status. Alternatively, an employer of an individual with TPS working under an EAD may act as a sponsor for employment–based immigration, or a foreign individual with TPS who intends to invest capital in a start up business in the United States (referred to as an “Alien Entrepreneur”) may be able to apply for LPR on his or her own behalf.
Each of these methods of seeking LPR status has its own requirements and procedures. Satisfying these requirements can allow an individual with TPS to adjust his immigration status in the United States to LPR. And if eligible, individuals with LPR can eventually apply for citizenship through the naturalization process.
A Qualified Immigration Attorney Can Assist You in the Complicated TPS Process
Not surprisingly, the application requirements for TPS can be rather daunting for foreigners visiting the United States, especially if they had not planned on staying in the United States for any length of time. Even more, individuals with TPS can find applying to change their TPS to LPR status even more confusing.
If you or someone you know needs to or wishes to obtain TPS registration or re–registration, you should contact an attorney who is familiar with navigating through the TPS process, particularly if you have failed to meet some of the timing deadlines for registration. In such cases, there may be waivers or other available avenues for still obtaining TPS.
In addition, if you or anyone you know has TPS but would like to or needs to adjust their status to LPR, an immigration attorney can provide invaluable assistance in making sure all of the documentation and other requirements are met. Because these immigration issues are a matter of federal law, rather than state law, you may retain an immigration attorney located in any state, even if you do not reside there.
Austin, Texas immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle, at the Lyttle Law Firm, can help with your TPS registration or adjustment of status. Ms. Lyttle regularly helps clients with U.S. immigration issues, including complex TPS cases. Furthermore, she speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Italian fluently; her language skills make her uniquely qualified to assist individuals from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua who may prefer to communicate with an attorney directly in Spanish.
If you or someone you know needs the help of a qualified immigration attorney to assist with TPS registration, contact the Lyttle Law Firm.