Until 1990, U.S. immigration law provided significant opportunities to people who had fled certain types of persecution, but there wasn’t much to protect someone from a country where general chaos had erupted. Then Congress enacted Temporary Protected Status, most often referred to as “TPS.”
TPS was conceived as temporary relief with no inherent prospect for permanent status. It is only available for people from certain countries designated from time to time by the Attorney General, whose designations expire after 6 to 18 months unless extended, and some designations have not been extended. Others have been extended arguably far longer than the immediate impact of the events that gave rise to designation. To benefit, someone from a designated country must have entered the U.S. by a certain date, must apply initially by a deadline (although there can be exceptions), and must keep filing applications to benefit from each subsequent extension of the country’s designation. Approval results in a valid work card and at least temporary protection from being removed.
USCIS’ website describes the eligibility rules and application procedures of the TPS program and lists countries currently designated for TPS, although the list sometimes falls out of date.
It is important to remember that, although being in TPS keeps someone from being “unlawfully present,” TPS is not a nonimmigrant status. Thus, if you can continue to maintain a nonimmigrant status, such as B-2 or F-1, even while you obtain and enjoy the unrestricted work authorization that comes with TPS, you will have the option to extend or change your nonimmigrant status after your TPS designation may end. If you let the nonimmigrant status lapse, you may have fewer meaningful options if and when TPS ends.
The DHS Secretary has tried to resist the temptation to make country extension designations at the last minute before the current designation expires, and USCIS has tried to make systems changes to increase the efficiency of its application processing. The goal is for affected foreign nationals to have time to file for their EAD extension applications, and for USCIS to have time to fully process and approve eligible EAD applications, before the designated country’s existing TPS work cards would expire. That way, employers could rely on the face of the cards, and systems like E-Verify could function more smoothly.
But especially with countries having large groups of TPS beneficiaries, such as El Salvarod and Honduras, this turns out to be impossible, and USCIS announces in the Federal Register that the cards will be extended automatically for about six months to allow time for the applications to be filed and processed. This can be confusing for employers who would expect to rely on the validity date printed on an employment card.
How We Can Help
We help business and individual clients determine whether TPS might be available and prepare and file the papers to obtain it. We help clients coordinate TPS, a temporary option, with other underlying temporary or long term immigration options that might be or become available. We assist with Deferred Enforced Departure when TPS ends for a country and the President intervenes. We represent clients in removal proceedings.
Consult with us for assistance with a case.