Everyday, hundreds of people born in and citizens of other countries come to the US for a short time. Maybe they're here to visit family or to do business with a US company. Sometimes, these foreign nationals ("aliens" or non-US citizens), can't go home as they intended to do.
If you're in this position, temporary protected status (TPS) may help. TPS is temporary immigration status that's granted to citizens of certain, designated countries (or parts of those countries) who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home countries because of special circumstances, such as ongoing war, an environmental disaster, like a hurricane, or some other extraordinary temporary circumstance.
Not everyone can be granted TPS, and not everyone granted TPS is allowed to stay in the US for the same amount of time.
TPS in General
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for designating or naming which countries (or parts of countries) are entitled to TPS. DHS also sets when TPS terminates and whether that time can be extended. Generally, DHS must set an initial TPS period between 6 and 18 months. At least 60 days before that period ends, DHS reviews the conditions in the designated country and determines whether the unsafe conditions still exist. If so, DHS may extend the designation for 6 to 18 months. If the conditions no longer exist, DHS will terminate the TPS designation.
During the TPS period, you're allowed to remain in the US and you can apply for work authorization. TPS doesn't lead to permanent resident status, however. So, when DHS terminates a TPS designation, you return to the same immigration status you had before TPS, or to the status you were granted while registered for TPS. For example, if you were in the US unlawfully, such as when your visa expires, before getting TPS and you don't change your status during the TPS period, you go back to unlawful status when the TPS designation ends.
Who's Eligible for TPS?
To qualify for TPS, you have to:
- Be a national of a designated country
- Prove that you've had continuous physical presence in the US since the effective date of the most recent TPS designation of the country
- Prove that you've had continuous residence in the US since a date that's designated by DHS. This date can be different for each designated country
- Be "admissible" as an immigrant, under the US immigration law, except for the admissibility requirements that relate to labor certification and documentation that relates to your entry and presence in the US
Applying for TPS
You have to file an application for TPS benefits within the time stated in the TPS designation. You file the application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Along with the application, you have to:
- Pay a $50 filing fee
- Allow the USCIS to take your fingerprints. If you're 14 years old or older, you have to pay an $80 fee for the fingerprinting
- Supply two photographs of yourself
- Provide documents that show or prove your nationality, such as a passport or birth certificate, and proof of how long you've been in the US, such as a letter from an employer, a copy of a lease for your home or apartment or copies of utility bills
Also, if DHS extends a TPS designation beyond the initial designation period, you have to re-register within the time stated in the extension. In addition, you have to re-register each year if the initial TPS period is longer than 12 months.
TPS Designated Countries
The countries currently designated for TPS are:
- Burundi. This designation terminates on May 2, 2009. You have to re-register to maintain TPS benefits through May 1, 2009
- El Salvador is designated through September 9, 2010
- Honduras is designated through July 5, 2010
- Nicaragua. This designation lasts through July 5, 2010
- Somalia is designated through September 17, 2009
- Sudan. This designation is valid through May 2, 2010
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can I apply for a permanent legal residency, or a "green card," while I have temporary protected status?
- Very recently, my native country was struck by a tsunami, and it's not currently designated for temporary protected status. Is it possible to ask or petition the Department of Homeland Security to designate my country? Is there anything else I can do to stay in the US until I can safely return home?
- I'm in the US with temporary protected status, but my family is still in my native country. Civil war recently broke out there. Is there any way I can have my family join me in the US until the war ends?